Visiting your local dental clinic such as Designer Smiles Dentistry is a great resource for cosmetic dentistry when getting the whitest smile in Texas is a priority, but getting your oral health sorted should be your top priority! Preventative oral health is brushing and flossing twice per day and scheduling routine dental exams. Avoid dental health issues such as oral cancer and gingivitis through prevention!
In our last blog, we examined oral cancer and how help prevent it. In this article we’ll touch on gingivitis — the oral condition our dentists all warns us about — and how it impacts our oral health.
What is gingivitis?
The Center For Disease Control (CDC) has estimated that over 47 percent of the US population or roughly 65 million US adults have some form of gum disease — which, gathered from these statistics, almost half of US adults aren’t listening and following the advice of their dentists!
Gingivitis is the first, and mildest, form of gum disease — only to be followed by the more serious and permanent type of gum disease, periodontitis. Gingivitis is considered an inflammatory disease that affects both the soft and hard structures that are a foundation to the teeth. The tell tale signs of gingivitis are swollen, red, and inflamed gums — the gums become puffy and inflamed as a result of the body’s attempt to ward off an abundance of harmful bacteria in the oral cavity. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis and cause permanent damage including tooth loss.
What are the causes of gingivitis?
Gingivitis doesn’t appear overnight or magically occur. It develops over time when oral health habits are significantly lacking. The ultimate cause of gingivitis is from plaque. Plaque is the nasty, soft and sticky, colorless bacteria filled film that envelops your teeth and infiltrates your gums.
To prevent plaque, you may first want to address your diet. When you consume a highly-processed, sugar and starchy filled diet, by nature, a poor diet produces more acid causing a plaque wall that is high and mighty. Eating a diet that limits processed foods that are sugary and starchy, and replacing them with foods that can actually scrub the teeth and remove debris (carrots, broccoli, and apples) will help keep the plaque wall weak and unstable. Avoiding any form of tobacco (smokeless or smoking) will greatly improve your dental health and help combat both plaque and gingivitis.
The next line of defense is daily dental care at home through brushing and flossing twice per day. Yes, you still have to floss daily that dental recommendation will never go away, so make a habit of doing it, daily! Lastly, yet just as important as the above factors, schedule routine dental cleanings bi-annually with your local dentist.
The failure to treat and prevent the formation of the plaque wall, will allow for little harmful bugs and toxins to climb and invade the plaque wall, resulting in gingivitis.
Other risk factors
Gingivitis starts with plaque, but other causes and risk factors are involved.
Age – We know almost half of the US population has some form of gum disease, and the age cohort most affected are older adults, 65 and up. This age group has an occurrence of gum disease of a rate over 70 percent. If you’re over 65, you have a much higher rate of getting gingivitis.
Stress – The facts about stress don’t get any better. Stress is linked to hypertension and cancer, and now gum disease. Stress compromises the immune system making it increasingly difficult to fight bacteria, a major player in plaque and gingivitis.
Medications – A handful of medications including antidepressants and oral contraceptives can affect your overall oral health, making it difficult to combat plaque. These medications can induce dry mouth and disrupt the healthy bacteria balance, leaving the bad bacteria able to roam and build plaque walls.
Bruxism (teeth grinding) – If you’re prone to grinding or clenching your teeth, this can speed the rate at which gingivitis progresses by pulling at the damage and inflamed tissue.
The mouth-body connection
Because of the systemic nature of gingivitis (affecting the body as a whole and not just as a particular part), gum disease is connected to other harmful diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. The tie that binds these diseases together is the inflammation that is present in both. One health issue directly affects the other, so addressing the inflammation in one will most likely address the inflammation in the other.
Does gingivitis affect men and women differently?
Gingivitis does affect men and women differently. Because a woman experiences many hormonal stages within her lifetime — puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause — these impacts can result in the occurrence of gingivitis because of how blood flow is increased or decreased throughout each of these stages. Some women are predisposed to gingivostomatitis, which affects a small percentage of females and presents as shiny or dry gums. The condition may alter their taste buds and may prompt sensitivities in salty, peppery, or sour foods.
Men have an increased rate of gum disease mainly because they are less likely to go to the dentist and develop beneficial dental health routines. Failure to address gingivitis in men can lead to poor prostate health, heart disease, impotence, and cancer.
Designer Smiles Dentistry
As a part of comprehensive preventive dentistry, we will help address any signs or symptoms of gingivitis or gum disease. Remember, dental health prevention starts at home with brushing and flossing, and in our dental office twice per year for routine dental exams.
Schedule today for preventative dental care!