Do you wear sunscreen on blistering hot days? Do you buckle your seat belt when going on a road trip? Like these measures, taking care of your gums and teeth marks the benefits of preventative care. Think ahead of time. Not only will staying on top of your gum health ward off unwanted accidents, it might also keep money in the bank later on.
The early stage of gum disease, called gingivitis, is the inflammation of your gums. Red tissue, receding gum lines and bleeding gums after brushing are all telltale signs of gingivitis. This occurs when plaque is allowed to accumulate in the pockets between where your teeth meet the gums. Plaque contains bacteria, which produce toxins that slowly eat away at the tissue. Although gums may be irritated at this point, teeth remain firmly planted in their sockets, and no irreversible bone damage has occurred yet.
If left untreated, however, gingivitis may progress to periodontal disease, or advanced-stage gum disease. At this point, the inner layer of the gum and bone begin to pull away from teeth, creating small pockets. The deeper the pockets, the more space bacteria have to grow.
At its nastiest, gum disease can result in the loss of teeth as well as the bones that support the teeth.
Biggest causes of gum diseases:
• Tobacco products: Smoking, chewing and any other use of tobacco has been shown as one of the leading causes of gum disease. The chemicals in tobacco leave harmful bacteria in the mouth, which erodes the gum tissue. When this happens, smoker’s breath might be the least of one’s concerns. Cigarettes, cigars and pipes contribute to gingivitis and periodontitis.
• Diabetes: Sugar is a well-known culprit of an unhealthy mouth. Because diabetes affects the body’s ability to use blood sugar properly, diabetic patients have a greater risk for developing mouth infections, such as periodontal disease and cavities.
• Illness: Cancer and HIV have been known to increase risk for gum problems, as the illness interferes with the immune system.
• Genetics: Research has shown that some individuals may be genetically susceptible to disease. Despite diligent oral care habits, these people are simply more likely to develop periodontal problems. Identifying who these individuals are with a genetic test before problems arise may help them keep their smile for a lifetime.
How to prevent gum disease:
• Brush: Brush your teeth following the “two-and-two” rule: twice a day for two minutes each session. If that seems like a long time, pick your favorite song and hum it while brushing away. Electric toothbrushes are another good option, as many have built-in timers that will notify you when you’ve completed a full two minutes.
• Floss: Oftentimes, flossing is like the middle step child that gets overlooked in place of its older brother brushing and younger sibling rinsing. But, take note; it is an equally important part of the oral hygiene family, as the thread reaches nooks and crannies between teeth that a toothbrush cannot get to. Flossing removes bacteria from the gumline, helping to ward off potential gum disease.
• Rinse: Using non-alcoholic mouthwashes can clean out the mouth, rinsing away much of the harmful bacteria. They can also fight off smoker’s breath.
• Visit a dentist regularly: It is recommended that you see a dentist once every six months. Mark it down on your calendar so you don’t forget. Contact your dentist or oral health professional if you notice any persisting gum problems.
Sort of like a public service announcement, people must be aware of the potential dangers of gum disease before problems happen. Receding gums do not grow back; the damage is irreversible, so take action immediately. No one wants a toothless grin. Remember, a healthy body starts with a healthy mouth!
When you’re cruising down the highway of life, don’t let oral health accidents slow you down.