By Julie Maddock

A smile is a gift we can give to someone every day.  And we feel more confident in readily smiling when we have healthy teeth and gums.  Periodontal disease can pose a threat not only to our smile, but our overall health.    

What is periodontal disease and just how serious is it?  According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, periodontal or gum disease is “the most common cause of tooth loss among adults.”  Symptoms often include swollen gums, consistent bad breath, painful chewing, sensitivity in the teeth and receding gums.  If the condition is left untreated, the disease can progress to bleeding gums, intense pain and eventually tooth loss. 

Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment
Blame it on nasty bacteria!  Our mouths are full of bacteria which forms a sticky plaque on our teeth.  If the plaque is not removed, it hardens and forms tartar.  Simple brushing and flossing cannot remove tartar.  That’s why the dental hygienist works so diligently cleaning and scraping your teeth to remove tartar. 

The dentist will examine the gums looking for any signs of inflammation.  They will measure pockets around each tooth (the average depth of these pockets ranges from 1 to 3 millimeters).  An X-ray may be taken to show any bone loss. 

If necessary, you may be referred to a periodontist — an expert in treating periodontal disease.  Treatment will focus on controlling any infection and preserving the teeth and gums.

Here are some helpful tips to win the fight against periodontal disease:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Do not skip flossing!  This is the most effective way to remove plaque from between the teeth and along the gums. 
  • Visit the dentist every six months for a professional cleaning.  Be sure to speak up about any changes you have noticed in your gums, including increased sensitivity or bleeding. 
  • Quit smoking.  Among adults aged 20 to 64, there is a greater prevalence of periodontal disease among current smokers (14.75 percent) compared to those who have never smoked (5.94 percent). 
  • Snack on a healthy-gums diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods that contain vitamin C (fruit or a glass of orange juice to start the day), omega-3 fats (tuna and walnuts) and zinc (red meat, poultry and nuts). 
  • Add more fresh onions to your diet.  They contain powerful compounds that fight harmful bacteria in your mouth that can cause gum disease. 

Periodontal or gum disease is “the most common cause of tooth loss among adults.”

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