The good news about gum disease is the simplicity of preventive care for most people. The best way to avoid gum disease is to follow the same measures you take to avoid cavities: brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice daily, floss every day, maintain a healthy diet, avoid tobacco use, and have your teeth professionally cleaned on a regular schedule. We may recommend more frequent cleaning, depending on the state of your oral health. Even with daily home care, plaque can build up and harden into a tough substance called tartar. In this state, only a dental professional can remove it. In the early stage of gingivitis, it's possible to reverse or even eliminate the disease by increasing the level of oral care. But it's important to catch the disease as early as possible. Regular dental checkups are vital, as is an awareness of the warning signs of gum disease. If gingivitis progresses to periodontitis, serious problems including tooth loss can occur.
Risk Factors for Gum Disease
The following are risk factors that you may be able to control to reduce your chance of developing gingivitis or progressing to periodontitis.
- Poor Oral Hygiene
Be sure to floss and brush your teeth, gums, and tongue daily, and have regular professional care.
- Smoking and Tobacco Use
It's long been established that smoking and tobacco use (cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco) increase the risk of cancer, lung disease, heart disease, and other serious health problems, but did you know they are also recognized strong risk factors for gum disease? Not only does tobacco use increase the occurrence of gum disease, it can also hinder the healing process by decreasing your ability to fight infection in your gums. You can stop smoking. Ask us, we can help.
- Poor Nutrition
A diet lacking in vitamins and minerals makes it more difficult for your immune system to fight infection. A diet rich in these, plus anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory substances helps you fight gum disease. Too many sugary foods and carbohydrates increase the production of plaque, which is the underlying cause of gum disease. For more information see our Nutrition and Oral Health page.
- Family History
You have a higher likelihood of developing gum disease if it runs in your family. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, up to 30% of the population may be genetically predisposed to gum disease. If your close family members have gum disease, be extremely diligent in your home care and your dental visits.
- Hormonal Changes
Women experience hormonal fluctuations during puberty, pregnancy and menopause, which can affect tissues in the body, including gums. Increased sensitivity in the gums can create a higher susceptibility to gum disease. Pay special attention to daily oral care and diet when you are experiencing hormonal fluctuations.
No matter what the cause (work, finances, depression, etc.), living in a state of stress can make it difficult for the body to fight off infection, including gingivitis and periodontitis. Stress is also a contributing factor to teeth grinding and clenching, which can accelerate the rate of bone damage with gum disease. Regular exercise is a great way to help you deal with stress that you cannot control.
- Certain Medications
Some drugs – including certain types of anti-depressants, heart medications, blood pressure medications, anticonvulsants, steroids, chemotherapy, oral contraceptives, and other medications – can affect your oral health. Drugs that lessen the flow of saliva can leave your teeth less protected than normal, and drugs that cause abnormal tissue growth can have an adverse effect on your gums. Be sure we are aware of any medications you are taking.
- Systemic Illnesses
Any illness that interferes with the immune system's ability to fight infection – such as diabetes, leukemia or AIDS – can leave you more susceptible to gum disease. While uncontrolled diabetes increases your risk for gum disease, gum disease also decreases your ability to control your diabetes! Make sure you see your physician and follow their recommendations to control any systemic diseases. Take special care to brush and floss daily and make regular visits to the dentist.