You know what they say – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. But, when it comes to gum disease, it can often seem that many people prefer to cure it rather than prevent it. Admittedly, gum disease can be sneaky. It affects about 50 percent of the population and a good chunk of people who have it don’t even realize it. If you haven’t really thought about gum disease, now’s a good time to start paying attention. There a few simple tweaks you make to your habits to cut your risk of developing it considerably.
Improve Your Diet
You probably already know that what you eat has a big impact on your oral health. Some foods, particularly sugary treats and starchy snacks, increase your risk for cavities and decay, by giving decay-causing bacteria plenty of food to eat.
What you eat can also impact the health of your gums. If your diet isn’t what anyone would call healthy, you might not be getting enough of the nutrients, such as vitamin C and vitamin A, which your gums need for proper functioning. Not getting enough vitamin C, for example, increases your risk for bleeding gums.
Some foods can also increase inflammation in your gums, making gingivitis more likely. Think of the times you’ve gotten bits of popcorn or pieces of potato chip lodged in your gums. Those stuck snacks not only cause you discomfort, they also irritate your gums, potentially leading to gingivitis, and if that’s not treated, to full-on periodontal disease.
Brush and Floss
Taking five minutes a day (two 2-minute brushing sessions and about a minute’s worth of flossing) to focus on your teeth can go a long way when it comes to keeping your mouth healthy. When you don’t brush and don’t floss, the sticky plaque that builds up on your teeth hardens into tartar, which can only be removed by a dentist or hygienist. That tartar inflames the gums, making gum disease more likely.
If you’ve already dealing with gingivitis, brushing and flossing can help reverse it, especially when combined with a cleaning at your dentist’s.
Get Your Teeth Straightened
Having crooked teeth won’t necessarily give you gum disease. But, crooked teeth or a bite that’s not in alignment can make it more difficult for you to brush your teeth, giving bacteria and plaque more places to hide. If you can’t afford braces or another type of orthodontic treatment at the moment, your dentist might be able to show you methods of flossing that will help you better clean between the teeth and reduce your risk for gum disease.
The more you smoke, the greater your risk for developing gum disease. Smoking happens to be one of the top risk factors for periodontal disease. It also makes gum disease more difficult to treat. While you can’t control other factors that increase your risk for gum disease, such as your genes or hormone levels, you can control whether you smoke or not.
Quitting can be a challenge, but there are ways to make it easier. For example, talk to your dentist about smoking cessation programs. Get the support of your family, too. You might also consider products to help you quit, such as the patch, gum or even medication.
See Your Dentist
Since most cases of gum disease start out as gingivitis, and since gingivitis is reversible, seeing your dentist twice a year, or more frequently, if you have a history of gum problems, can help you stop gum disease before it has a chance to get very far. Depending on your history, your dentist might recommend seeing a periodontist on a regular basis, too.
High stress levels don’t just make you feel uncomfortable. They also reduce your body’s ability to fight off infection and increase your risk for gum disease. If your stress levels are regularly high, there are a few ways you can reduce them. Try to find activities that relax you, whether it’s going for a jog in the morning or taking a yoga class. Some people find that a regular meditation practice helps relax them.
Dr. John Paul Gallardo are periodontists in Miami, Florida. They can provide treatment for gum disease, advice on keeping it from returning, and tips for preventing it. If you’re concerned about gum disease and want more information on what you can do to protect your mouth, call (305) 447-1447 for a consultation today.