As the old adage goes, you only need to floss the teeth you want to keep, and most of us want to hold on to all our teeth for our lifetime! The most important way to achieve that goal is to keep your gums healthy.
Bacteria can build up under your gums, which are the soft tissue that covers your jaw bone. This tissue makes up a seal that holds your pearly white firmly in place, keeping your teeth in and bacteria out. If this seal is compromised, you will run into problems.
Poor gum health isn’t just bad news for your teeth. Research has linked poor oral health to heart and lung disease, so it’s important to every aspect of your health that you maintain healthy gums.
The Progress of Gum Disease
Gum disease, also called periodontitis, starts slow and evolves in severity over many years. If you catch your gum issues early enough, good oral hygiene can reverse it.
Dentists classify gum disease into three phases:
Gingivitis: This is the youngest phase of gum disease. During this time, plaque between your teeth starts to produce toxins and inflame and irritate the gums. If you have gingivitis, your gum disease can easily be reversed with a few weeks of diligent brushing and flossing.
Mild to Moderate Periodontitis: When periodontitis is in its mild to moderate phases, you have a low-grade infection that is eating away at your gums little by little. The seal that holds your teeth in is getting weaker, forming pockets where bacteria can collect.
Advanced Periodontitis: At this time, the pockets along your gum line are growing weak. During this stage, your teeth are likely to fall out.
Ways You Can Prevent Gum Disease
The guidelines for keeping your teeth healthy shouldn’t sound all that different from the guidelines for maintaining other areas of your health:
- Avoid stress
- Drink plenty of water
- Do not use tobacco of any kind
- Eat a balanced diet
- Brush twice a day
- Floss daily
- Visit the dentist every 6 months
A Common Problem
According to the CDC, almost 50% of Americans over the age of 30 have some form of gum disease. Symptoms are typically painless, so many Americans are not aware that they have periodontitis.
Since early diagnosis is important, this statistic is particularly frightening. This is one of the many reasons why it’s important to make it into the dentist’s office for your 6-month check-ups.