What disease is more common in the U.S. than diabetes, affecting 50 percent of adults over the age of 30? If you said gum disease, you’d be correct. Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is far more common and widespread than most people think, according to the American Academy of Periodontology.
Part of the reason why gum disease is so prevalent, yet so overlooked is because it often doesn’t have many signs or symptoms until it’s well advanced. The disease is caused by hundreds of different types of bacteria which create plaque below the gum line. While everyone’s degree of risk for the condition varies, it is fairly universally understood that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to your dental health. Left untreated, gum disease is thought to contribute to a number of other diseases, from heart disease to diabetes.
Basic Oral Care
Developing a good oral care routine can help lower your risk for gum disease. Brush your teeth at least twice a day, using a soft bristle toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Brushing your teeth removes plaque from the surface of your teeth, reducing the likelihood that it will build up. The fluoride in certain types of toothpaste helps strengthen your tooth’s enamel, reducing your risk for cavities.
Flossing at least once a day is an essential part of your oral care routine. It helps prevent gum disease by removing any plaque or bits of food that get stuck between your teeth and that you can’t reach with a toothbrush.
Seeing your dentist or a periodontist regularly is also a good preventative measure. Your dentist can evaluate the state of your gums and encourage you to improve your oral care routine or refer you to a periodontist for further treatment.
Are You at Risk?
Even with a good oral care routine, some people have a greater risk for gum disease than others. Since brushing and flossing might not be enough, seeing your dentist is absolutely a must to either stop gum disease in its track or treat it before it can progress. The American Academy of Periodontology has created a simple, five-question true or false quiz to help people determine their risk for gum disease.
One risk factor for the disease is a family history of it. If your mom or dad had to deal with gum disease or if your siblings have had gum issues, keeping up with your periodontist is a must.
Another risk factor for the condition is smoking. Tobacco use is one of the leading causes of gum disease. If you haven’t quit yet, quitting today might be one of the best ways you can help prevent the condition.
Bleeding gums can be a risk factor for gum disease, or a sign that you already have the disease. Since bleeding gums are sign of a number of serious illnesses, it’s best to see a dentist if you notice persistent bleeding when you brush or floss.
The Gum Disease Bacteria
A recent study from the University of Pennsylvania has highlighted a new way to prevent gum disease, beyond good dental care and regular dental visits. The bacteria behind many cases of gum disease, Porphyromonas gingivalis, is somehow able to hide from the body’s immune system. In turn, it thrives on the inflammatory response of the immune system and is able to reduce immune response so that the hundreds of other bacteria that play a role in gum disease are also able to survive.
The dentists and doctors at Penn examined the complement system, the part of the immune system that responds to bacteria and other invaders, creating the inflammatory response. A complement molecule called C3 was found to help P. gingivalis survive. Cp40 is a drug that reduces C3’s response, keeping it from sustaining P. gingivalis.
After applying the drug to the gums of monkeys, the Penn scientists found that it reduced inflammation and bone loss. If all goes well, the drug could be developed into a treatment for humans that helps prevent gum disease before it can progress.
Even if Cp40 becomes a widely available treatment option, you’ll still need to see a periodontist to evaluate the state of your gums and determine if the drug meets your needs. To learn more about your risk for gum disease and ways to prevent it today, contact the Miami practice of Dr. John Gallardo and Dr. William Lamas for an appointment at (305) 447-1447.