Did you know that February is National Gum Disease Awareness Month? Gum disease, also referred to as periodontal disease, affects more than half of Americans aged 30 or older. Fortunately, this health problem is almost completely preventable with proper oral hygiene habits.
How does gum disease develop?
Plaque is the primary cause of gum disease. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that is constantly forming on the surface of your teeth and is generally removed through daily brushing and flossing. However, when plaque is not completely removed, it can accumulate on the surface of your teeth, hardening into a rough, porous deposit called tartar.
When plaque builds up on your teeth, it can irritate and inflame your gums. Over time, irritated gum tissue can separate from the teeth, forming spaces called “pockets.” Within these pockets, bacteria continue to develop, worsening the irritation.
If left untreated, gum disease can destroy the gums, bones, and other tooth-supporting tissue. When periodontal disease develops to its final state—periodontitis—it impacts your bite, and teeth may even need to be removed. In fact, gum disease is the leading cause of adult tooth loss.
However, the progression of this disease can be prevented with healthy oral hygiene habits. Here are Dr. Tikson and Dr. Eichenlaub‘s top tips for preventing gum disease:
1. Brush for two minutes twice each day and floss daily. There’s a good reason your dentist wants you to brush and floss! When you brush and floss daily, you can clean away the plaque that develops on your teeth, minimizing your risk of harmful tartar buildup.
2. Choose dental products with the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance. There are so many oral hygiene products on the market, but only products with the official ADA Seal are proven to be safe and effective at cleaning your teeth.
3. Avoid tobacco products. Tobacco products are harmful to your oral hygiene—in fact, smoking is one of the number one risk factors for developing gum disease. Plus, smoking weakens your immune system, making it harder for your body to fight off a gum infection.
4. Use a therapeutic mouthwash. Although mouthwash is no substitute for brushing and flossing, a therapeutic mouthwash can help reduce plaque and slow the development of tartar in your mouth.
5. Visit Dr. Tikson or Dr. Eichenlaub twice each year. At your biannual cleaning and checkup, your dentist will check for signs of gum disease. If gum disease is detected in its earliest stage, called gingivitis, the disease is still reversible! Additionally, your dental hygienist will remove any tartar that has developed on the teeth. Removing hardened tartar from your teeth is only possible during a professional cleaning, so it’s very important that you visit your hygienist twice each year.
If you follow these simple tips, you should be able to prevent the development of gum disease! Please call us to schedule an appointment if you’re due for a cleaning or have noticed any gum irritation or sensitivity.