According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 50 percent of American adults have gum disease . In adults over the age of 65, this percentage climbs to over 70 percent. While this chronic inflammatory disease that affects gum tissue and bone that supports the teeth, it is both preventable and treatable.
The first stage of periodontitis is gingivitis. During this early stage of the disease, gums become red, swollen and can bleed easily. The cause of gingivitis is plaque that is attached to tooth surfaces. The body reacts to the plaque in a way that can cause an inflammatory response which can lead to the destruction of gum tissue.
Risk factors for gingivitis include:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Lack of dental care
- Overly aggressive oral hygiene
- Mouth breathing during sleep
- Medications that can dry the mouth
- Genetic factors
- Some pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes
The good news is that gingivitis can be both prevented and reversed with some proactive strategies.
- Daily Brushing and Flossing
Yes, it seems simple, but it works! Brush teeth at least twice daily with a soft-bristle toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste and floss regularly to remove plaque between teeth.
- Visit the Dentist Every Six Months
Regular check-ups and professional cleanings is also essential for removing plaque that can cause gingivitis.
- Oral Rinses
Although not a substitute for brushing and flossing, a therapeutic oral rinse, formulated for controlling plaque, can help reduce the risk of developing gingivitis.
- Don’t Smoke
Smoking weakens the body’s ability to fight infection. This makes it more difficult for your body to fight off the early stages of gum disease. And, once you have gum damage, smoking can make it much harder for your gums to heal.
- Eat a Healthy Diet
Your diet also has a lot to do with the health of your teeth and gums. Sugary sweet and acidic foods can weaken gum tissue and tooth enamel. Healthier alternatives include apples that can dislodge plaque from gums and teeth, ginger which has anti-inflammatory properties, dairy products with bone-fortifying calcium and leafy greens which can neutralize mouth bacteria.
Why Is Preventing Gum Disease So Important?
Along with causing dental pain and tooth loss, researchers have discovered that gum disease is also linked to several serious inflammatory conditions, including heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and glaucoma. Ongoing research is being conducted to obtain deeper understanding of how gum disease may cause health problems that extend beyond the mouth and whether gum disease can be a way to prevent some serious conditions from developing. In the meantime, there are plenty of other reasons to keep your teeth and gums healthy, including maintaining a healthy smile for a lifetime.