How Can I Prevent Gum Disease?

Millions of Americans suffer from a chronic bacterial infection in their mouths commonly referred to as “gum disease”.  This progressive disease causes bad breath, tooth sensitivity, looseness of the teeth, and eventually tooth loss.  The bad news is that it can be difficult to treat.

The good news is that it is very easy to prevent!  And this article covers the important things you can do to prevent gum disease.

What Causes Gum Disease?

As we mentioned earlier, gum disease is a bacterial infection.  The primary cause is the bacteria living in dental plaque and tartar that collects on the teeth.  These bacteria produce toxins that penetrate the surrounding gum tissues.  The body responds to this toxin invasion by producing inflammation.

As the bacterial buildup continues to accumulate, it becomes impossible for you to remove on your own, instead requiring dental treatment.  If left untreated, the inflammation transitions from acute to chronic, which leads to a destruction of the tissues surrounding the teeth.  We call these the periodontal tissues, and the official name for the disease is periodontal disease.  Periodontal disease involves a loss of the attachment between the ligaments, jawbone, and gums to the teeth.

What Factors Make Gum Disease Worse?

While the bacteria living in plaque are the primary cause of the disease, there are certain factors that can make you more likely to get periodontal disease and make it worse when you have it. People with these risk factors need to work more diligently to prevent gum disease or successfully treat it.

  • Dry Mouth – Saliva is one of the body’s best defenses against dental plaque. When someone suffers from dry mouth and does NOT have enough saliva, they tend to build up more plaque and find it more difficult to remove with brushing and flossing.  (It’s stickier than average plaque!) In addition to fighting gum disease, you will also need to fight dry mouth.
  • Diabetes – There is a unique two-way relationship between diabetes and gum disease. Uncontrolled diabetes makes gum disease worse, and active gum disease makes diabetes harder to control.  In order to successfully treat one, you actually have to treat both!  If you have diabetes and gum disease, you will need to work with your dentist and endocrinologist at the same time to get both diseases under control.
  • Smoking – People who smoke have a double-whammy when it comes to gum disease. Smoking both dries out the mouth and affects the body’s ability to fight the inflammation of gum disease.  In order to beat gum disease, you need to stop smoking.

How Can I Prevent Gum Disease in My Own Mouth?

In order to prevent gum disease from developing in the first place, there are several important steps you must take.

  1. Great Oral Hygiene at Home

Because dental plaque contains the bacteria that cause gum disease, you have to be diligent about removing the plaque every single day.  Plaque is soft and easily comes off the teeth when you use the correct brushing and flossing techniques.  The bad news is that when you do not remove plaque, it hardens and transitions into tartar, which you cannot remove.  Tartar removal requires dental professionals using specialized instruments.  So the first step is doing your best to remove plaque and prevent that transition into tartar.

  1. Consistent Dental Visits with Professional Teeth Cleanings

No one is a perfect brusher or flosser.  Everyone, even dentists, accumulates tartar buildup in some areas of the mouth.  This is why everyone needs to see a dentist or dental hygienist for professional teeth cleanings on a consistent basis.  During the dental visit, not only will the hygienist remove all bacterial buildup from your teeth.  The dentist will perform a thorough evaluation of your teeth and gums, catching any warning signs or risk factors for gum disease.  This enables your dentist to make recommendations for fighting those risk factors and preventing the disease.

  1. Fight Your Risk Factors

Your dentist will help you identify particular risk factors and make recommendations of how to fight them.  For example, patients suffering from dry mouth may need to add salivary stimulants to their oral hygiene regimen or used specialized oral care products to keep the mouth moisturized.  Patients with diabetes must understand how and be motivated to control their blood sugar levels with medications and dietary changes.  And everyone, we mean EVERYONE, should stop smoking.  Gum disease is only one of the terrible effects of smoking.

More Questions about Preventing Gum Disease?

Call Timberlake Dental today at 940-382-1750 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Chowning.  We can also set you up with our wonderful dental hygienists for a professional teeth cleaning.  We will help you identify your unique risk factors and get you on the right path to counteracting them with good routines!

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