The statistics for gum disease in America are frightening: about half of American adults have it in one form or another, from younger adults up to seniors. And once gingivitis, the milder form of gum disease, has taken hold, it's easy for periodontitis to follow. This can cause bone loss, tooth loss, and other painful symptoms as well as infected gums.
Here are four habits to be wary of if you'd like to avoid getting gum disease.
1. Ignoring a Dry Mouth
A dry mouth can arise from a multitude of causes. Anxiety, medications, medical conditions, or even breathing through your mouth at night due to sleep apnea can trigger a dry mouth. But no matter the cause, the effect can have further repercussions of its own. Less saliva can mean less defense against acids and bacteria on your teeth.
In turn, this can lead to increased enamel damage and eventually cavities, as well as increased proliferation of bacteria along the gumline, leading to gingivitis. And with a dry mouth, it's easier for gingivitis to progress to periodontal disease, where the bacteria attack the bone structure in your jaw.
So if you develop a dry mouth, don't dismiss it as a minor side effect or a harmless inconvenience. It can actually have big repercussions. Talk to your dentist about options for countering a dry mouth.
2. Using Tobacco
Tobacco doesn't just make gingivitis more likely to take up residence in your mouth. Like diabetes, tobacco use also makes it harder to recover from gingivitis. But unlike diabetes, tobacco is a lifestyle choice rather than a medical condition. So you should choose to avoid developing a tobacco habit if you care about your continued gum health.
If you've already developed this addictive habit and aren't sure you can stop, there are resources available to help you. Check out the CDC's resources and tips for quitting.
3. Skipping out on Floss
Yes, you've been hearing it your whole life, but skipping your daily appointment with your dental floss is a bad idea. Not only can tartar start to harden between your teeth after just a couple of days, but flossing is an important way to dislodge inflammation-causing bacteria from just below your gumline.
If you don't dislodge these bacteria regularly, they can cause the inflammation and sensitivity known as gingivitis, which can then cause your gums to start pulling away slightly. This forms deeper pockets where bacteria can lodge and, once the pockets are deep enough, even your dental floss won't be able to reach them.
If you already brush and floss regularly and just want to add a little extra something helpful, consider adding a PH-balancing mouthwash right after each meal or chewing a piece of sugar-free gum. These techniques can help move saliva through your mouth, removing food debris and diluting or neutralizing any acids produced by the bad bacteria.
4. Neglecting Dental Problems
If you have current dental issues, either diagnosed or undiagnosed, you're at a higher risk for developing gingivitis and eventually periodontitis. Whether you avoid dentists because of that one bad experience you had when you were a kid or because the budget is tight, try to think ahead. Losing your teeth and gaining chronic inflammation and pain in your mouth isn't worth it.
Some of the issues that can put you at higher risk include:
- Ill-fitting dental appliances
- Teeth that aren't straight
- Fillings that have been compromised
Even cavities can play a part by causing inflammation and irritation of the gum. As you can see, any dental issues you have (or suspect you may have) should lead you to seek professional help immediately if you want to avoid a chronic case of gum disease.
Indiana Family Dentistry can advise you on these and other bad habits while keeping a watchful eye on your gum health. Call today to schedule an appointment.