Periodontal Disease and How to Prevent It

Periodontal disease occurs when the plaque that adheres to your teeth is not effectively removed. Plaque forms when the bacteria within your mouth combines with mucus, creating a sticky and damaging substance that attaches itself to your teeth. Brushing and flossing regularly will certainly help you minimize the formation of plaque in your mouth, but plaque that remains often turns into something called tartar, which cannot be easily brushed or flossed away (although a thorough cleaning by a professional will likely get the job done).

To reduce your chances of developing gum disease, it’s important to recognize risk factors. Here’s a look at some of the things that commonly lead to gum disease, so you can learn to avoid them.

Your Genetic Makeup

Your genetics play an important role in determining how healthy your teeth and gums are. So much so, in fact, that some researchers believe that as much as 30 percent of the population is especially susceptible to the condition. That being said, even those who are predisposed to periodontal disease can dramatically reduce their chances of developing it simply by engaging in strong oral hygiene practices.

Your Stress Level

While stress in and of itself isn’t a direct contributor to periodontal disease, it has a tendency to weaken your overall immune system, meaning you’ll have a tougher time fighting off infections. In other words, if you’re in the beginning stages of gum disease and are particularly stressed out, it will likely exacerbate the problem. 

Your Smoking Habit

If you don’t already suffer from periodontal disease, smoking may cause it to develop. If you’re a smoker and you already have symptoms of gum disease, continuing the habit will only make the problem worse. The more you smoke, the greater your risk, so cutting down your existing habit (or better yet, quitting entirely) can pay off in the form of improved oral health.

There are many risk factors associated with periodontal disease. The easiest and most effective way of reducing your chance of developing it is to practice strong brushing and flossing habits and visit your dentist at regular intervals. 

How Is Oral Health Defined?

Everyone wants to have a healthy mouth and beautiful smile, but what exactly does it mean to have good oral health? Some individuals may think that a beautiful smile can be attributed to healthy teeth, but in some cases teeth whitening products can make a smile appear healthy even when it is not. If you are not certain what it means to have good oral health or what steps you should take to improve the health of your mouth, here is a brief definition of what you should be focused on.

Oral Refers to the Entire Mouth

The word “oral” has Latin roots that refer to the entire mouth; not just the teeth. This means that a person who wants to improve their oral health should focus on all of the tissues in the mouth, including the tongue, chewing muscles, teeth, gums, lips, and connective tissues. Based on this definition, oral health is achieved when all of the various structures in the mouth are taken care of and are free from painful conditions.

In addition to gingivitis and tooth decay, other conditions that affect oral health include:

  • Soft tissue lesions in the mouth area
  • Pharyngeal and oral cancers
  • Cleft palate
  • Cleft lip
  • Other painful oral diseases or conditions

Why Oral Health Is So Important

The health and scientific communities are continuously discovering links between oral health and other dangerous physical conditions, such as:

  • Premature births
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Lung disease

If you are concerned about the health of your body in general, you should also be concerned about improving your oral health. In addition to being linked to various physical ailments, poor oral health can also make it difficult for individuals to participate in daily activities, such as eating, drinking, and conversing with others.

Improve Your Oral Health Today

You can take matters into your own hands and improve your oral health by regularly brushing and flossing your teeth, rinsing your mouth with mouthwash, eating a healthy diet, and receiving regular dental checkups. 

Managing Children’s Anxiety at the Dentist

Whether you specialize in pediatric dentistry or want to make sure your family practice is child-friendly, it’s important to have a wide repertoire of techniques at your disposal to calm children when they are having dental work done. You may even find that some of these techniques also work for skittish adults.

Engage and Educate

Although it isn’t necessary to turn your entire waiting area into a playroom, having activities that engage children while they wait for their appointment can go a long way toward keeping the anxiety at bay prior to their appointment time. You can choose to go the educational route, and use the waiting time as an opportunity to explain some things about the visit and their teeth and what to expect during their appointment, or you can provide movies, games, and toys.

Communicate

It’s important to address fears children might have by allowing them to talk about those fears, and by letting them know what to expect. Fully explaining what will happen during the visit gives them the opportunity to ask questions and can ease some of the fear of the unknown. Make sure they have a way to communicate with you throughout the procedure, or check in with them periodically to let them know how much longer they’ll be in the chair.

Involve Parents

Sometimes just the presence of a parent or familiar face in the exam room may help the child feel more safe and comfortable, especially if it’s their first time. Collaborating with the parent to demonstrate what will happen during the visit is an excellent strategy. You can explain to the child what will occur, demonstrate it on the parent, and then do the procedure with the child.

Parents also have a role in ensuring that children see the dentist for the first time at an early age (preferably by the time they turn 1) so children can have positive experiences from the beginning and learn that the dentist is not a place they should fear. If parents wait until a child requires extensive treatment, visits to the dentist will likely be viewed as fearful or painful events.

Using some or all of these techniques should help children manage their anxiety at the dentist. Doing so can visit more productive and enjoyable for everyone.

Why Daily Brushing May Not Be Enough to Prevent Gum Disease and Tooth Decay

Healthy teeth start with healthy habits. The simple oral care habits that are part of your daily routine actually go a long way towards protecting your teeth and gums against a range of preventable dental problems. Taking care of your teeth requires only a few basic tools and a little know-how.

Protect Your Mouth Against Plaque

Gum disease (gingivitis) is cause in part by the plaque that builds up on your teeth near the gum line. This hard layer is formed by bacteria which flourish by feeding on the food particles that should be cleared away with brushing. Over time, the layer of plaque causes the gum line to recede. Your gums might feel swollen and tender or might bleed slightly after brushing. These are a few signs that plaque is starting to win.

While daily brushing is essential for keeping your mouth healthy, using a toothbrush and toothpaste alone is often not enough to keep plaque at bay. In addition, you should add flossing at least once a day, and make sure you are regularly visiting your dentist, since s/he has specialized tools and treatment options to remove hard-to-reach plaque, and the plaque that has hardened to become tartar.

How Your Dentist Can Help

Even though daily dental care habits will go a long way towards preventing gum disease, regular checkups with your dentist will help ensure a lifetime of good oral health. During your checkup, your dental care team will:

  • Remove the tough layer of plaque that has built up since your last cleaning
  • Check for cavities and places where cavities might develop
  • Identify any chips or cracks that need repairing
  • Provide personalized guidance to help you care for your teeth

Dentists recommend that most patients see them for checkups and cleaning twice a year, although that can vary depending on your own personal oral health needs. This will help prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria.