If you suspect you may have gum disease, there’s a good chance you’re right. According to the CDC, one out of every two adults in the US has some form of periodontal disease. Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, ranges from mild to severe, and can have serious impacts on your overall health.
Gum disease starts with the bacteria in our mouths. These bacteria, along with mucus and other particles, constantly form a sticky, colorless “plaque” on teeth. Brushing and flossing help get rid of plaque. Plaque that is not removed can harden and form “tartar” that brushing doesn’t clean. Only a professional cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist can remove tartar.
The longer tartar stays on the teeth, the more damage it does. When the bacteria causes inflammation of the gums, gingivitis has begun. In gingivitis, the gums become red, swollen and can bleed easily. Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that can usually be reversed with daily brushing and flossing, and regular cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist. This form of gum disease does not include any loss of bone and tissue that hold teeth in place.
The bad news is, when gingivitis is not treated, it can advance to “periodontitis” (which means “inflammation around the tooth”). In periodontitis, gums pull away from the teeth and form spaces (called “pockets”) that become infected. The body’s immune system fights the bacteria as the plaque spreads and grows below the gum line. Bacterial toxins and the body’s natural response to infection start to break down the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place. If not treated, the bones, gums, and tissue that support the teeth are destroyed. The teeth may eventually become loose and have to be removed.
How do I know if I have gum disease?
These can be signs of periodontal disease:
- Bad breath that won’t go away
- Red or swollen gums
- Tender or bleeding gums
- Mouth sores
- Painful chewing
- Your gums appear shiny and irritated
- Loose teeth
- Sensitive teeth
- Receding gums or longer appearing teeth
So now what?
If you have any of the symptoms listed above, they should be checked by your dentist. Your dentist and/or hygienist will ask you questions about your medical history to identify underlying conditions or risk factors (such as smoking, diabetes, other illnesses and treatments, etc.) that may contribute to gum disease. They will examine your gums for inflammation, and use a tiny ruler called a “probe”, to measure any gaps you may have between your teeth and gum line. If these gaps, called “pockets”, are larger than normal, then you have gingivitis.
The first step in addressing gum disease is a deep cleaning of your teeth and gums. They will remove the plaque through a deep-cleaning method called scaling and root planing. Scaling means scraping off the tartar from above and below the gum line. Root planing gets rid of rough spots on the tooth root where the germs gather, and helps remove bacteria that contribute to the disease. Depending on the severity of your gum disease, you may be referred to a periodontist (a periodontal disease specialist) for this care.
So brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day, eat a balanced diet, avoid smoking, and visit your dentist regularly to avoid developing gingivitis. Call today for an appointment!
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It’s another new year, so you may already be making some healthy changes to your lifestyle. Many new year’s resolutions include new diets and fitness routines to lose weight and get into better shape. But when you’re assessing your overall health, don’t forget the health of your mouth! Just like every other part of your body, your mouth requires specific nutrients and vitamins too.
Here’s a short list of the vitamins and minerals your mouth needs the most, and how to find them in the foods you eat:
Okay, you probably already guessed this one, but for good reason. Calcium builds strong bones and teeth, and although it’s vital in childhood, you also need it to maintain strong and healthy teeth in adulthood as well. When your body is low on calcium, it leeches the mineral from your teeth and bones, which can increase your risk of tooth decay and cavities. Studies have also shown that people who don’t get enough calcium in their diet are nearly twice as likely to have periodontitis, or gum disease, than those who get the recommended amount. The jawbone is particularly susceptible to damage from low calcium, leaving you at even greater risk for gum disease.
What to eat: In addition to dairy, good sources of calcium include leafy green vegetables, broccoli, sardines, almonds, legumes, oysters, and salmon. If you’re not sure you get enough calcium in your diet, you should consider adding a calcium supplement.
Yes, calcium is at the top of the list, but vitamin D is a close second. Your body needs vitamin D in order to absorb the calcium it takes in, and to boost bone mineral density. Without it, your entire mouth would suffer from calcium deficiency, leading to underdeveloped teeth, gum disease, and tooth decay.
What to eat: The simplest way to get your daily vitamin D is to sit in the sunlight at least 15 minutes per day, but the vitamin can also be found in fish, eggs, cod liver oil, canned tuna, and portobello mushrooms. You can also look for foods and drinks that have been fortified with vitamin D, such as milk, orange juice, and cereal.
Like vitamin D, pairing calcium with phosphorus is necessary in order for calcium to fully absorb into the body and promote notable bone health. Luckily, most dairy products contain phosphorus, but calcium supplements don’t.
What to eat: Good sources of phosphorus include seafood, such as scallops, sardines, cod, shrimp, tuna, and salmon. If you’re looking to get your phosphorus from plant-based foods, consider beans, lentils, nuts, and whole grains. You can also find phosphorus in beef, pork, and cheese.
Vitamin C keeps the connective tissues of your gums strong, so it can protect against gingivitis. Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal diseases, and it causes the gums to become red from inflammation, swelling and bleeding easily.
What to eat: You probably already know that citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C, (oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, berries, etc.), but you can also find it in leafy greens, sweet potatoes, peppers, broccoli, and even kale.
Potassium, like Vitamin D, improves bone mineral density. It can guard against the weakening of supporting structures like the jaw, and is also is essential in blood clotting, which is good for your gums.
What to eat: Most everyone knows that bananas are well known sources of potassium, but it can also be found in legumes, dark leafy green vegetables, squash, yogurt, milk, cheese, mushrooms, lima beans, tomatoes, Swiss chard, potatoes, sweet potatoes, avocados, and prunes.
Best known for helping with eyesight and clear skin, vitamin A is also a good way to hlep maintain healthy mucous membranes and salivary flow in the mouth. It can keep mucous membranes healthy, and prevent dry mouth, which helps your mouth heal quickly.
What to eat: For strong gums and teeth, load up on fish, egg yolks, and organ meats, like liver. You can also find it in leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, and collard greens, or in orange-colored fruits and vegetables, like apricots, cantaloupe, pumpkin, carrots, and sweet potatoes. These fruits and veggies contain high levels of beta-carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A.
So when you make your new year’s resolutions, don’t forget to include your oral health in your overall health plan. And while eating a balanced diet is important in maintaining your oral health, regular dental checkups are essential in ensuring that your mouth is as healthy as it can be. Call us to schedule a checkup today!
For even more information on eating healthy for your mouth, visit the MouthHealthy website!
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