Periodontal disease, more commonly known as gum disease, is a condition generally caused by bacteria found in plaque (aka the colorless, fuzzy or sticky film that builds up between the teeth and gums). When these bacteria begin to accumulate, the adjacent gums can become irritated and inflamed. Without proper oral care, this inflammation can then lead to gingivitis, which is the first precursor to periodontal disease.
Fortunately, early gingivitis detection and treatment can often prevent progression; however, it’s important to establish healthy hygiene habits long before this becomes a concern. If periodontal disease develops and is not treated, severe cases can lead to receding gums, tooth loss, and even other serious health conditions such as heart disease.
Gum disease is entirely preventable through comprehensive dental care. Here are five basic tips to help you prevent periodontal disease:
1. Brush your teeth at least twice per day: Ideally, your teeth should be brushed after every meal, but at bare minimum, you should already be brushing your teeth in the morning and before you go to bed. If you haven’t already established this habit, or if you’re prone to skipping this crucial step in your bedtime routine, now is the time to get on board. Brushing not only removes food debris, but it also helps remove plaque that is stuck between your gums and teeth. Don’t forget to brush your tongue, too, as it is often an unassuming source of bacteria!
2. Flossing is essential: While we should all be flossing at least once a day, it is all too common for people to skip this practice altogether. Cleaning between your teeth is essential to remove the plaque and food particles that brushing cannot reach.
3. Use mouthwash: Swishing with mouthwash is a worthwhile final step to any optimal oral care routine. Like floss, it helps remove any leftover particles, and can also keep plaque and bad breath in check.
4. Visit a periodontist: Schedule a yearly, comprehensive periodontal evaluation with your dental professional. Your dentist will typically check your tooth and gum health, plaque level, bone structure, and bite to evaluate your risk of periodontal disease. It is critical to proactively identify any early symptoms of gum disease in order to best protect your gums and teeth.
5. Know your risk factors: Several elements can increase your risk of periodontal disease, including your age, smoking history, diet, genetics, medications, fluctuating hormones, stress, grinding your teeth, and misaligned or crowded teeth. If you believe you’re at an increased risk of periodontal disease, don’t wait to speak with your dental professional.