Is Gum Disease Inevitable With Age?
Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is the primary oral health concern for adults in the United States. Statistics show it’s the leading cause of tooth loss in adults, and over half of adults have some level of periodontal disease by age 30. By age 65 and beyond, cases of periodontal disease rise past 70%, showing that this disease becomes much more common with age.
Seeing these astounding numbers leaves many wondering, “Can I even prevent gum disease and age-related tooth loss as I grow older?” The answer is most often yes! Although gum disease is prevalent, it responds very well to preventive care strategies and early treatment. Even adults with a higher risk of gum disease due to systemic health conditions or medications can manage their perio health very well with a dentist’s help.
Here are the 5 main things you can do to prevent gum disease.
1. Practice great oral hygiene habits at home.
How you care for your smile at home has the most significant impact on your overall oral health. Great brushing and flossing habits will minimize plaque build-up, reduce the chances of tooth decay, and promote healthy gum tissue.
Here’s an example of an oral care session you can repeat twice a day:
- Using string floss, carefully floss between each tooth, including your molars. Be sure to wiggle down to the gums along each tooth’s side. Take your time and be gentle.
- Scrape your tongue to remove bacteria and food debris, and encourage fresher breath.
- Apply a pea-sized dollop of fluoride toothpaste to your toothbrush and brush all surfaces of your teeth for two minutes. It helps to break down your smile into four quadrants and brush each section thoroughly for 30 seconds.
- Spit out your toothpaste but don’t rinse with water, as this will wash away residual fluoride from your toothpaste.
- Rinse with fluoride mouthwash afterward if you wish.
Upgrade to a powered toothbrush and a water flosser system if you want to elevate your dental care regimen. These tools aren’t necessary, but studies suggest they provide a more thorough cleaning experience. We find that the small, round head of powered toothbrushes is excellent for plaque removal right around the gum line.
2. See your dentist every six months for a check-up.
Even if your teeth and gums look and feel fine, resist the temptation to skip or delay your biannual preventive care appointments. These regular check-ups and cleanings are crucial for maintaining your gum health.
Remember that teeth and gums don’t often feel painful or tender until after the damage has already been done. It isn’t uncommon for someone with gingivitis or mild periodontitis to be completely unaware of their gum inflammation until their dentist points it out during a check-up.
Secondly, regardless of your immaculate brushing habits at home, only the tools and techniques used by a hygienist during a professional cleaning fully removes all plaque build-up. Stubborn plaque build-up begins right at the gum line, where it can quickly irritate the gum tissue, causing inflammation and swelling.
3. Eat a nutritious diet with inflammation-fighting foods.
The foods you choose to fuel your body with also contribute to oral health. A varied diet will help ensure you get a wide range of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Foods with certain vitamins, especially vitamin C, also help fight inflammation and disease.
If you want to improve your dietary health, your doctor or a licensed nutritionist can help you get started. Many adults are deficient in vitamins A, C, and D, and magnesium, calcium, and potassium, so starting with a blood lab from your doctor can help determine if you should take supplements.
Aside from diet, other substances we put into our bodies can also increase the risks of gum disease. Tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption are significantly destructive to oral health, and both contribute heavily to the development of periodontitis.
4. Know the early signs of gum disease.
Gum disease develops in stages, beginning with mild gingivitis and ending with severe periodontitis. Knowing the symptoms for these stages is valuable in the early detection of gum disease in between your usual preventive care check-ups with your dentist.
Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Bleeding gums, usually during brushing or flossing. Light bleeding may be common, but remember that it’s not normal. Rather, this symptom is one of the first signs of gingivitis.
- Visible swelling, puffiness, and redness around the gums, especially at the gum line.
- Chronic bad breath or halitosis, despite brushing or using breath-freshening products.
- Gums receding backward or teeth appearing to look longer than usual.
- Teeth feeling wiggly and loose in their sockets.
- Teeth feeling like they’ve shifted in position (i.e., change in bite alignment).
Whenever you notice anything off about your teeth or gums, don’t wait to speak with your dentist about it. Taking a proactive approach can stop your early periodontitis in its tracks.
Protect your periodontal health at Tomasik Family Dental.
Tomasik Family Dental dentists focus on complete dental health, including preventing and treating periodontal disease. Our practice is proud to offer dental membership plans near Bee Cave and Lakeway, which includes preventive care appointments and discounts on treatment services.
Call our office or use this online request form to learn more about age-related gum disease or to schedule an appointment.