You may have heard the old saying “Give a smile…it doesn’t cost a thing.” But, that’s not the only benefit of a smile. In fact, studies have shown that smiling makes people more attractive, helps keep stress at bay, and reduces stress levels.
A beautiful smile is not always easy to maintain, however, and many people are not great at caring for their gums. A 2015 survey from the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) actually found that 27 percent of U.S. adults lie to their dentist about how often they floss their teeth, with 15 percent saying they’d rather wash dirty dishes than floss.
This leads many to be at risk for periodontal (a.k.a. gum) disease. Fifty percent of American adults over 30 actually have gum issues. And 65% of adults over the age of 65 have some form of periodontal disease. In fact, gum disease is 2.5 times more common than diabetes.
Although it may be common, gum disease is actually easy to treat and is possibly reversible if you practice good oral hygiene habits and receive professional treatments from a periodontist.
The AAP wants to help you love the gums you’re with. Here are eight tips to help prevent gum disease:
- Get to the Root of the Problem. There are more than 500 types of bacteria found in dental plaque. When plaque builds up below the gum line, due to not sticking to good oral hygiene habits (such as brushing twice a day and flossing regularly), it can cause irritation that leads to gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease. Untreated gingivitis can lead to a more advanced form of gum disease called periodontitis.
- Examine Your Risk. Risk factors for developing periodontal disease can include biological makeup and lifestyle choices like smoking, age, hormones, medications, diseases, poor nutrition and stress. Knowing your risk for periodontal disease and discussing it with your dental professional are vital steps for preventing the disease.
- Establish Good Habits. Brushing twice a day can help keep food from being trapped between teeth and gums, which leads to gum irritation. Flossing every day is also an effective way to remove food particles and plaque between the teeth and gums that brushing cannot reach.
- Know Your Options. Gum disease has a variety of treatment options based on the stage of the disease. Non-surgical treatments include scaling and root planning, which clean the surface of the roots of teeth to remove plaque, tartar and bacteria. If left untreated, a number of health issues can arise such as tooth decay, tooth loss and other serious oral health problems.
- Get Professional Help. If you have, or suspect you have, gum disease, look for a specialist. Periodontists are dentists who specialize in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of periodontal disease, and receive three additional years of training after dental school. With that skill set, periodontists can help you keep your gums healthy for a long life of chewing and smiling.
- Use Online Gum Resources. The AAP offers a new online resource, Gumblr.org, to help you learn more about oral health. It also allows you to find a local periodontist, take interactive quizzes and much more.
- Never Underestimate Gum Disease. While gum disease causes a lot of trouble for the teeth and mouth, research suggests it is also associated with other serious inflammatory ailments like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Periodontal pockets in the gums allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream, which can wreak havoc on the immune system.
- Never Disregard Symptoms. Early-to-moderate stages of gum disease often lack pain, so there is no sense of awareness or urgency to deal with the problem. Therefore, it’s crucial to visit your dental professional for regular checkups and a periodontist annually for a comprehensive periodontal evaluation. That way gum disease can be diagnosed before symptoms start and it’s already more advanced.
Remember, the gums you have are yours for life. You need to love the gums you’re with. Check out www.gumblr.org or more information.
By Dr. Aldredge