Preventing Gum Disease
Adults over the age of 35 lose more teeth to gum disease than from cavities. Three out of four adults are affected at some time in their lives. The best way to prevent cavities and periodontal disease is by daily thorough tooth brushing and flossing techniques and regular professional examinations and cleanings. Unfortunately, even with the most diligent home dental care, people still can develop some form of periodontal disease. Once this disease starts, professional intervention is necessary to prevent its progress.
Other important factors affecting the health of your gums:
- Tobacco usage
- Clenching and grinding teeth
- Poor nutrition
Periodontal Disease & Tobacco
You are probably familiar with the links between tobacco use and lung disease, cancer, and heart disease.
Current studies have now linked periodontal disease with tobacco usage. These cases may be even more severe than those of non-users of tobacco. There is a greater incidence of calculus formation on teeth, deeper pockets between gums and teeth, as well as greater loss of the bone and fibers that hold teeth in your mouth. In addition, your chance of developing oral cancer increases with the use of smokeless tobacco.
Chemicals in tobacco such as nicotine and tar slow down healing and the predictability of success following periodontal treatment.
Problems caused by tobacco include:
Lung disease, heart disease, cancer, mouth sores, gum recession, loss of bone and teeth, bad breath, tooth staining, lowered success of periodontal treatment and dental implants.
Quitting tobacco will reduce the chance of developing the above problems.
Diabetes & Oral Health
Individuals suffering from diabetes, especially uncontrolled diabetes, have a higher risk of developing bacterial infections of the mouth. These infections may impair the ability to process insulin, resulting in greater difficulty with controlling diabetes. Periodontal disease will be more severe than those of a non-diabetic and treatment more difficult. However, well-controlled diabetics have a lower incidence of cavities.
Women & Periodontal Health
Throughout a woman’s life, hormonal changes affect tissue throughout the body. Fluctuations in levels occur during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. At these times, the chance of periodontal disease may increase, requiring special care of your oral health.
During puberty, there is increased production of sex hormones. These higher levels increase gum sensitivity and lead to greater irritations from plaque and food particles. The gums can become swollen, turn red, and feel tender.
Similar symptoms occasionally appear several days before menstruation. There can be bleeding of the gums, bright red swelling between the teeth and gum, or sores on the inside of the cheek. The symptoms clear up once the period has started. As the amount of sex hormones decrease, so do these problems.
Your gums and teeth are also affected during pregnancy. Between the second and eighth month, your gums may also swell, bleed, and become red or tender. Large lumps may appear as a reaction to local irritants. However, these growths are generally painless and not cancerous. They may require professional removal, but usually disappear after pregnancy.
Periodontal health should be part of your prenatal care. Any infections during pregnancy, including periodontal infections, can place a baby’s health at risk.
The best way to prevent periodontal infections is to begin with healthy gums and continue to maintain your oral health with proper home care and careful periodontal monitoring.
Swelling, bleeding, and tenderness of the gums may also occur when you are taking oral contraceptives, which are synthetic hormones.
You must mention any prescriptions you are taking, including oral contraceptives, prior to medical or dental treatment. This will help eliminate the risk of drug interactions, such as antibiotics with oral contraceptives where the effectiveness of the contraceptive can be lessened.
Changes in the look and feel of your mouth may occur if you are menopausal or post-menopausal. They include feeling pain and burning in your gum tissue and salty, peppery, or sour tastes.
Careful oral hygiene at home and a professional cleaning may relieve these symptoms. There are also saliva substitutes to treat the effects of dry mouth.