Oral hygiene is your front-line defense against gum disease.

The latest Centers for Disease Control report shows that 2.9% more US adults visited their dentist in 2017 compared to 2010. Back in 2010, only 61.1% of adults aged 18 to 65 paid their oral healthcare provider a visit; seven years later, this went up to an impressive 64%! We also have the millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) to thank for this good news—after all, 84% of them say that their teeth can affect their personal or professional life.

However, periodontitis, or gum disease, is still prevalent in younger adults. What’s more, it can be painless, which means you can have it but not know it right away. Fortunately, periodontal disease is highly preventable and treatable.

Ready to learn all about this common oral health problem and what you can do to keep it at bay? Then continue reading as we’re here to tell you all about it!

What is periodontitis?

Also known as periodontal disease, periodontitis occurs when the gums get infected. The ongoing infection causes damage to these soft tissues. If left untreated, it can cause the gums to recede from the teeth. Gum recession, in turn, causes teeth to become unstable and loose. More bacteria can get into the deeper parts of the gum structure, all the way to the teeth-supporting bone. From here, the harmful micro-organisms can destroy the bone too. Ultimately, this can make the affected teeth fall out.

What causes periodontal disease?

In many cases, periodontitis results from poor oral hygiene. The mouth, after all, is home to the body’s second-most diverse microbial community. It houses, at the very least, 700 different bacterial species. Many of these micro-organisms, unfortunately, are the primary cause of plaque.

Plaque is the clear but sticky substance that constantly forms on teeth. The bacteria in the mouth are even more active in creating plaque after meals because they feed on the “left-overs” as well as the sugars and starches found in food. This all highlights the importance of brushing and flossing after every meal. Still, some people are more prone to or at a higher risk of periodontitis.

How big a role does age play in periodontal disease?

It’s true—periodontitis is more common in older people, affecting 70% of adults aged 65 and above. It’s also because of this that toothlessness is more prevalent in seniors.

According to scientists, this may have to do with how the gums break down faster with age. Inflammation also appears to occur more quickly in the gums of older adults, while the aging process seems to slow down the body’s ability to heal wounds, such as those in the gums.

Who is at risk of gum disease aside from older people?

In addition to poor oral hygiene, smoking tobacco also raises your risk for periodontitis. Research suggests that women between 20 and 39 years old who smoke have twice the risk of developing gum disease. In the general population, 15.6% of smokers have gum disease, while it’s only 4.9% in non-smokers. That makes smoking the leading modifiable risk factor for diseases of the gums.

Genes also appear to be a risk factor when it comes to periodontitis. Scientists have found a link between dozens of genes and increased gum disease risk. Always feeling stressed and poor dietary choices can also raise periodontitis risks.

Is periodontal disease curable?

Yes, it is! However, early diagnosis and treatment are both of the utmost importance here. It’s in the initial stages of periodontitis that the disease is most reversible. This also applies to those who have gene-related risk factors, which is one of the reasons that dentists want to know their patient’s medical and family history. With this knowledge, dentists can actively monitor their at-risk patients. They can then carry out early intervention and preventative treatment.

How do dentists treat periodontitis?

The earlier periodontitis gets diagnosed, the greater the possibility of reversing it. If your dentist catches it early, you may not even have to undergo surgical treatment. In this case, your oral healthcare provider may only need to perform scaling and root planing.

Today’s ultrasonic scalers allow for a more thorough cleaning of teeth and gums. This, in turn, removes a lot more plaque than regular brushing and flossing. With continued at-home oral hygiene, your gums can then recover and heal. Also, the cleaner your pearly whites are, the lower the risks of gum disease recurrence.

What can you do to prevent gum diseases?

Saying hello to your dentist at least once every six months can reduce your risks for gum disease. A study of 26,000 people even found that twice-a-year visits may help prevent pneumonia! That’s another good reason to bond with your oral healthcare provider.

In between dental visits, make it a habit to not only brush after every meal but to do so for at least two minutes. According to studies, this can remove 26% more plaque than brushing for only 45 seconds.

Flossing before brushing is also more effective in keeping plaque at bay. Flossing first lets you get rid of more debris and plaque stuck between your teeth. Following it up with brushing then ensures that these particles get washed away.

Keeping your immune system healthy by feasting on healthy food can also help keep gum disease at bay. Citrus fruits, bell peppers, broccoli, spinach, and almonds are some of your top choices.

Keeping Optimal Oral Hygiene for Fewer Periodontitis Worries

While periodontitis is more common in older adults, even younger people can have it. You don’t have to panic if your gums bleed, but it’s something to feel concerned about.

In case you do notice signs of periodontal disease—such as swollen or tender gums, bleeding gums or loose teeth—it’s best to get in touch with your dentist as soon as possible. This gives your dentist more time and a greater chance to reverse the problem.

Are you interested in learning more about gum disease or tooth decay? If so, then our team here at Berrien Dental is ready to help! Please connect with us now, and we’ll be happy to answer any oral health questions you may have.