On the whole, people care about their teeth – what they look like, how they feel and how white they can get. However, our pearlies are only half the equation of a healthy smile, as our gums play a larger role than we might think.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 50 percent of American adults have gum disease. This consists of both gingivitis – the inflammation of the gums (early stage), and periodontal disease (advanced stage).
Gum disease is an infection of the tissues that keep your teeth in place. More often than not, it is triggered by poor brushing and flossing habits that allow plaque and anaerobic bacteria to stick onto the teeth. The main area of infection is where the teeth meet the gums, or the gum pockets. The bigger the pockets, the larger amount of space bacteria has to take shelter. If left untreated, the gingivitis can turn into advanced-stage gum disease. Gradually, a patient’s gums erode; the teeth loosen, and may even fall out. Today, more people lose their teeth due to gum disease than tooth decay.
Older adults between the ages of 35 to 64 have more than three times the risk for severe periodontitis. Additionally, Hispanic and black adults, current smokers and those with lower incomes are more likely to have advanced stage gum disease as well.
“Periodontal disease is associated with age, and as Americans live longer and retain more of their natural teeth, periodontal disease may take on more prominence in the oral health of the U.S. adult population,” Paul Eke, MPH, PhD and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemiologist, explained. “Maintaining good periodontal health is important to the overall health and well-being of our aging population.”
Biggest risk factors
The single leading cause of periodontitis is smoking. Besides giving you terrible bad breath, tobacco products eat away at the soft tissue, inhibit blood flow to the gums and leave room for bacteria to proliferate, all of which make smokers more vulnerable to severe periodontal disease.
Notably, this goes for tobacco products across the board. Like cigarettes, pipes and cigars also lead to oral health issues.
Other factors include: diabetes (since blood sugar levels weaken dental enamel), medications that reduce saliva and dry out the mouth, and genetic susceptibility. Certain people are more prone to severe gum disease than others.
So, how can we prevent gum disease?
Brush your teeth and gums twice per day. When focusing on the gums, brush in gentle, circular motions. Always use soft nylon bristles – never medium or hard. They can literally wear away tooth enamel and gum tissue. Take about two minutes to make sure you’ve covered every spot where nasty bacteria can hide. Be sure to floss each day, ideally before brushing. After we finish brushing, we tend to think our mouths feel clean enough, and we hold off on flossing until later. The thread can help dislodge stray pieces of food and dental plaque from between teeth, places that a toothbrush simply can’t reach.
A newer effective solution involves the use of the Dr. Katz Ozonator. This home appliance creates active Ozonated water that can then be poured directly into the tank of your HydroFloss, Water Pik or other brand of oral irrigator. The reason this works so effectively is because ozone is superoxygenated water. Studies show that ozone, when directly contacting anaerobic bacteria, destroys them immediately. Anaerobic bacteria are the root cause of gum disease as well as bad breath.
Consumers simply ozonate tap water for five minutes using the Dr. Katz Ozonator, pour it into their HydroFlossor Water Pik and they’re ready to start oxygenating the area below the gumline. Most consumers follow up with toothpaste specialized for gum disease such as PerioTherapy.
Don’t forget to schedule regular visits to your dentist. Dental professionals can evaluate each tooth above and below the gumline to ensure the health of your gums and teeth.
Without a doubt, gums are hugely important. The next time you’re brushing your teeth remember, clean teeth are only half of a healthy smile!