In the pursuit to maintain good oral hygiene, there’s no underestimating how crucial regular visits to the dentist’s office can be. Visiting a Dentist periodically may not only prove essential to preserving an attractive smile, but for an array of health reasons as well. There are many risks associated with poor oral hygiene such as gum disease, cavities, infections and worse, but these risks can most often be entirely averted with just two yearly teeth cleanings.
Dental check-ups are best done every six months. Six months is the average time span between two check-ups, but depending on your dental health Dr. Castro may increase the number of annual check-ups. For example, if your teeth and gums are in good condition, and there is no significant plaque build-up in-between visits the dentist may agree to one annual check-up.
On the other hand, high-risk patients may need to increase the number of annual check-ups to three or even four. People who fall in this category are:
Does this year to-do list include two visits to the dentist? If regular checkups aren’t on your calendar, you may be putting your oral health at risk.
Why dental visits are so important
Tooth decay doesn’t immediately produce any symptoms. In fact, by the time your tooth starts to hurt, your cavity may be very big. When you visit the dentist every six months, we can spot and treat small cavities before they can destroy large areas of your tooth. Treating cavities when they’re small can help you avoid more extensive procedures in the future.
Cleanings are an important part of your dental checkups. Although brushing and flossing is an excellent way to keep your teeth clean, it may be difficult to brush away plaque if your teeth overlap even slightly. During your cleanings, special dental instruments will be used to remove plaque and tartar from your teeth.
Tartar is a hard, unsightly deposit that forms on your teeth if plaque isn’t removed after as little 10 days. Brushing and flossing is an effective way to get rid of plaque, but it has no effect on tartar. Unfortunately, the longer it remains on your teeth, the greater your risk of gum disease. During your visit, we’ll get rid of tartar deposits that mar your smile and increase your chances of developing gum disease.
Protecting your smile starts with good oral hygiene habits
In between dental visits, a good oral hygiene routine can help you avoid cavities and gum disease. The simplest way to avoid these issues is by brushing and flossing daily. Too many people don’t spend enough time brushing. Experts recommend that you brush for at least two minutes if you want to get rid of plaque from every surface of your teeth. Don’t forget to brush your tongue too.
Ultimately, the health of your teeth and mouth affects all aspects of your life…medically, socially, and professionally
Your daily habits could decrease your chances of developing decay or gum disease.
While everyone can agree that it’s important to give your teeth and gums the proper care they deserve, some people have no idea how to really go about it. Yes, most people understand the importance of brushing and flossing but don’t realize that technique matters or that other factors play into their oral health.
Whether you are an occasional smoker or heavy cigarette user, tobacco products of any kind can wreak havoc on your smile. While there are many studies that discuss the health issues involved in smoking you may not realize that smoking can also cause a host of oral health problems, from chronic bad breath and decay to gum disease, infection, reduced healing and even oral cancer. If you want to really improve your oral health then it’s time to to ditch the habit.
Just as what you eat affects your general health it can also affect your oral health, as well. If you eat a diet that is rich in sugar, starches and processed foods, sodas, sports drinks and fruit juices then chances are very good that you will deal with decay, gum disease and enamel erosion. If you want to keep teeth, gums and bones healthy and strong, then you’ll want to eat more vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy.
Swap Out Toothbrush Heads
Your toothbrush isn’t meant to last forever, but most people put off buying a new toothbrush. However, frayed bristles can be too harsh for enamel and can lead to scratches or excessive wear and tear. The best thing you can do is replace your toothbrush head once you notice the bristles starting to splay out (usually about every three to four months). You should also replace your toothbrush head after an illness since the bristles can harbor bacteria.
Don’t forget that your trip to the dentist every six months is important for a healthy smile.
You know the basics for a healthy mouth: daily oral hygiene and regular dental checkups. But there are other elements unique to you that also factor into your oral care: the mouth and facial structure you inherited from your parents (like a poor bite) and your past history with dental disease. Both of these help define your individual risk factors for potential dental problems.
That’s why you need a treatment strategy personalized to you to achieve the best health possible for your teeth and gums. We create this plan by using a detailed and thorough 4-step process.
Step 1: Identify your unique risk factors. To find your risk factors for dental disease, we carefully assess your history and other areas of oral function and health: the soundness of your supporting bone and gum structures; your teeth’s structural integrity and any effects from decay, enamel erosion or trauma; functional issues like a poor bite, a jaw joint disorder or a grinding habit; and problems with appearance like disproportional gums.
Step 2: Prioritize risk factors and form the treatment plan. Once we’ve identified your individual risk factors, we assess how each could impact you and whether any require immediate treatment. Any current dental disease should be treated immediately to minimize and prevent further damage. Depending on severity, other issues like bite problems or unattractive teeth may be scheduled for later treatment.
Step 3: Execute the treatment plan. With our priorities in place, we then proceed with treating your teeth and gums, the most pressing needs first. Throughout this step, our goal is to bring your oral health to the highest level possible for you.
Step 4: Monitoring and maintaining health. Once we’ve achieved an optimum level of health, we must remain vigilant about keeping it. So we monitor for any emerging problems and perform preventive treatments like clinical cleanings to help maintain that healthy state. This also means regularly repeating our 4-step process to identify and update any new, emerging risks and incorporate them into our treatment strategy.
While this process may seem overly methodical, it can actually result in more efficient and cost-effective treatment. It’s the best way to ensure good health for your teeth and gums throughout your lifetime.
For most of us, brushing and flossing is a routine part of daily life. But has it become such a routine that you may not be getting the most out of your daily regimen?
First, let’s be clear about what you’re trying to accomplish with these two important hygiene tasks, which is to remove as much accumulated dental plaque as possible. This thin film of bacteria and food particles is the primary cause for both tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease.
So how can you tell if you’re effectively cleaning dental plaque from your teeth? Here are 4 ways to check your brushing and flossing skills.
The tongue test. Move your tongue across the surface of your teeth, especially at the gum line, immediately after brushing and flossing. “Plaque-free” teeth will feel smooth and slick. If you feel any grittiness, though, you may be missing some plaque.
Floss check. For a similar effect after your daily hygiene take a fresh piece of floss and run it up and down your teeth. If the teeth are clean and you are using un-waxed floss, the floss should “squeak” as you move it up and down.
Disclosing agents. You can also occasionally use a plaque disclosing agent. This product contains a solution you apply to your teeth after brushing and flossing that will dye any leftover plaque a specific color. Disclosing agents are handy for uncovering specific areas that require more of your future hygiene attention. And don’t worry—the dye is temporary and will fade quickly.
Dental visits. For the ultimate test, visit your dentist at least twice a year. Not only can dental cleanings remove hard to reach plaque and calculus (hardened tartar), but your dentist or hygienist can evaluate how well you’ve been doing. Consider it your “final exam” for oral hygiene!
Be sure to also ask your dental provider for tips and training in better brushing and flossing. Becoming more effective at these critical tasks helps ensure you’re keeping your teeth and gums free of disease.
The most important thing to look for when choosing a toothpaste is to find one that is low-abrasive. You should definitely avoid the tartar-control and whitening toothpastes because they very abrasive and wear away the tooth enamel, which make the teeth appear darker in color and more sensitive.
Brush your teeth in small circles, two teeth at a time, at a 45-degree angle to the tooth enamel. Brush your teeth at least two times per day slowly for one to two minutes. Ideally, you should brush your teeth after every meal and especially after eating sugary foods.
Toothbrushes need to be replaced as soon as the bristles start to bend. Any brand of toothbrush is fine as long as it has soft or extra-soft bristles. Using a Sonicare electric toothbrush feels good and prevents people from brushing too hard.
Avoiding excessive amounts of soda pop, coffee, and tea will reduce stain build up. Soda pop will not only stain your teeth but also, due to its acid content, will also chemically erode the enamel. Thinner enamel allows the darker under color of the tooth to show.
More frequent professional cleanings, sometimes four per year, will help to keep staining to a minimum. Rinsing during the day, especially after snacking, can also help reduce staining and enamel erosion.
People tend to hate flossing, and it’s hard for some people to stay motivated. There isn’t a cause and effect with immediate improvement and visible results by flossing your teeth like there is by brushing your hair. I can’t stress enough how important flossing is for the long-term health of your teeth and gums. Try to think of it as an investment in your future and of the money you will save by incorporating a simple step into your daily routine. Flossing both after breakfast and before bed is ideal. If you were to do it only once per day, evening is better. When we sleep, we produce less saliva, which irrigates food from your teeth. Flossing before sleep reduces decay and gum disease.
There are a number of effective ways to combat bad breath (halitosis). Drinking more water is one of the easiest ways to help alleviate halitosis. Contrary to what advertisers would like us to believe, sugary gum, breath mints, and candies don’t get rid of bad breath; they actually worsen bad breath by feeding the bacteria that cause bad breath, so it is wise to avoid them. By far the best way to control bad breath is by having a clean, healthy mouth. This means regular visits to your dentist and frequent professional cleanings. I have found that using Oxyfresh® products also have been very successful. They do not contain alcohol and are very effective in killing the bacteria that cause odor as well as deodorizing the mouth. It is also important to clean your tongue. I have found the Oxyfresh® Oolitt tongue scraper to be helpful and more effective than a toothbrush for tongue cleaning.
The Academy of Pediatric Dentists (AAPD) advises parents to make biannual dental appointments for children, beginning approximately six months after the first tooth emerges.
These two important yearly visits allow the pediatric dentist to monitor new developments in the child’s mouth, evaluate changes in the condition of teeth and gums, and continue to advise parents on good oral care strategies.
The pediatric dentist may schedule additional visits for children who are particularly susceptible to tooth decay or who show early signs of orthodontic problems.
What is the purpose of dental checkups?
First, the pediatric dentist aims to provide a “good dental home” for the child. If a dental emergency does arise, parents can take the child for treatment at a familiar, comfortable location.
Second, the pediatric dentist keeps meticulous records of the child’s ongoing dental health and jaw development. In general, painful dental conditions do not arise overnight. If the pediatric dentist understands the child’s dental health history, it becomes easier to anticipate future issues and intervene before they arise.
Third, the pediatric dentist is able to educate parents and children during the visit. Sometimes the pediatric dentist wants to introduce one or several factors to enhance tooth health – for example, sealants, fluoride supplements, or xylitol. Other times, the pediatric dentist asks parents to change the child’s dietary or oral behavior – for example, reducing sugar in the child’s diet, removing an intraoral piercing, or even transitioning the child from sippy cups to adult-sized drinking glasses.
Finally, dental X-rays are often the only way to identify tiny cavities in primary (baby) teeth. Though the child may not be feeling any pain, left unchecked, these tiny cavities can rapidly turn into large cavities, tooth decay, and eventually, childhood periodontal disease. Dental X-rays are only used when the pediatric dentist suspects cavities or orthodontic irregularities.
Are checkups necessary if my child has healthy teeth?
The condition of a child’s teeth can change fairly rapidly. Even if the child’s teeth were evaluated as healthy just six months prior, changes in diet or oral habits (for example, thumb sucking) can quickly render them vulnerable to decay or misalignment.
In addition to visual examinations, the pediatric dentist provides thorough dental cleanings during each visit. These cleanings eradicate the plaque and debris that can build up between teeth and in other hard to reach places. Though a good homecare routine is especially important, these professional cleanings provide an additional tool to keep smiles healthy.
The pediatric dentist is also able to monitor the child’s fluoride levels during routine visits. Oftentimes, a topical fluoride gel or varnish is applied to teeth after the cleaning. Topical fluoride remineralizes the teeth and staunches mineral loss, protecting tooth enamel from oral acid attacks. Some children are also given take-home fluoride supplements (especially those residing in areas where fluoride is not routinely added to the community water supply).
Finally, the pediatric dentist may apply dental sealants to the child’s back teeth (molars). This impenetrable liquid plastic substance is brushed onto the molars to seal out harmful debris, bacteria, and acid.
One in four adults have cavities. Oral health is often taken for granted, but it is an essential part of our everyday lives. It’s never too late to take control of your oral health, and prevent dental problems.
While brushing and flossing are two of the most important daily habits for maintaining healthy teeth and gums — there are several other simple things you can do to avoid toothaches or worse — tooth loss.
The first step in taking control of your oral health is knowing what your cavity risk level is. The best way to know this is through a comprehensive dental exam. With regular examinations, and discussion with your dentist, you will know where you stand, which treatments may be needed, as well as which changes in oral hygiene and diet may help. Once you know your risk level, then you take a more specific, effective approach to improving your oral health.
Another advantage of knowing your cavity risk level: it will also determine how often dental visits are needed. The lower your risk, the less often you should need dental visits. Find out and discuss your risk level with your dentist during regular dental exams.
Although preventable, the occurrences of tooth decay are all too common. Yet decay doesn’t appear out of the blue: certain mouth conditions set the disease in motion.
Here are a few signs of such conditions to watch for — they could be telling you you’re at higher risk for tooth decay.
Visible plaque. Plaque is a thin film of bacteria and food accumulating on tooth surfaces and a prime haven for causing periodontal disease. If you actually see it — a crusty, yellowish film — that means there’s a large, unhealthy amount of it. It’s essential to remove it daily through diligent brushing and flossing and more thorough office cleanings at least twice a year.
Poor saliva flow. One of this bodily fluid’s functions is to neutralize mouth acid, usually thirty minutes to an hour after we eat. If saliva flow is inadequate, though, acid levels may remain high and endanger the enamel. “Dry mouth” can occur from a number of causes, including some medications and chemotherapy treatments. It’s important to alleviate the cause if possible by changing medications or stimulating saliva flow through other means.
Tooth shape and appliances. Largely determined by heredity, your teeth contain unique, tiny grooves known as pits and fissures that could harbor plaque. Certain appliances like retainers, braces or night guards can inhibit saliva flow and cause your teeth to retain more plaque. It’s important then to adjust your hygiene efforts to offset these anatomical or treatment factors.
Acid-producing conditions. Diseases like gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) or eating disorders can introduce stomach acid into the mouth that is highly erosive to tooth enamel. It’s imperative for you or a family member to control these conditions through medication, dietary changes, or — in the case of eating disorders — behavioral therapy.
Eating habits. Sugar and other carbohydrates are a ready food source for bacteria. Likewise, acidic foods and beverages (like coffee, tea, and sports or energy drinks) can cause high acid levels for too long. Cut back on eating and drinking these foods and beverages, especially as snacks, to reduce acid levels that could lead to decay.
Nothing grabs your attention like a sharp tooth pain, seemingly hitting you out of nowhere while you’re eating or drinking. But there is a reason for your sudden agony and the sooner you find it out, the better the outcome for your oral health.
To understand tooth sensitivity, we need to first look at the three layers of tooth anatomy. In the center is the pulp filled with blood vessels and nerve bundles: it’s completely covered by the next layer dentin, a soft tissue filled with microscopic tubules that transmit sensations like pressure or temperature to the pulp nerves.
The third layer is enamel, which completely covers the crown, the visible part of a tooth. Enamel protects the two innermost tooth layers from disease and also helps muffle sensations so the tooth’s nerves aren’t overwhelmed. The enamel stops at about the gum line; below it the gums provide similar protection and sensation shielding to the dentin of the tooth roots.
Problems occur, though, when the dentin below the gums becomes exposed, most commonly because of periodontal (gum) disease. This bacterial infection caused by dental plaque triggers inflammation, which over time can weaken gum tissues and cause them to detach and shrink back (or recede) from the teeth. This can leave the root area vulnerable to disease and the full brunt of environmental sensations that then travel to the nerves in the pulp.
Tooth decay can also create conditions that cause sensitivity. Decay begins when certain oral bacteria multiply and produce higher than normal levels of acid. The acid in turn dissolves the enamel’s mineral content to create holes (cavities) that expose the dentin. Not treated, the infection can eventually invade the pulp, putting the tooth in danger of being lost unless a root canal treatment is performed to remove the infection and seal the tooth from further infection.
So, if you begin experiencing a jolt of pain while eating or drinking hot or cold foods or beverages, see your dentist as soon as possible to diagnose and treat the underlying cause. And protect your teeth from dental disease by practicing daily brushing and flossing, as well as seeing your dentist for regular dental cleanings and checkups. Don’t ignore those sharp pains—your teeth may be trying to tell you something.
Pregnancy is a very special and exciting time for expectant women and their families. At this time, many moms-to-be make careful choices to try and do what’s best for themselves and their babies. Wondering what’s the right way to take care of your oral health when you’re expecting? Here are answers to a few of the most common questions about dental care during pregnancy.
Q: Does pregnancy make a woman more susceptible to dental problems?
A: Yes. Pregnancy causes big changes in the levels of certain hormones, and these in turn have a powerful influence on your body. For example, many expectant moms experience food cravings and morning sickness at certain times. Changing hormone levels can also affect your oral health in various ways, including making your gums tender, swollen, and highly sensitive to the harmful bacteria in plaque.
Q: What are “pregnancy tumors” in the mouth?
A: These are benign (non-cancerous) overgrowths of tissue that sometimes develop on the gums during the second trimester. Often appearing between the teeth, these swollen reddish growths are thought to be caused by plaque bacteria. They sometimes go away on their own when pregnancy is over, but may be surgically removed if they don’t.
Q: Is it normal to have bleeding gums during pregnancy?
A: It’s not uncommon, but it does indicate that you need to pay careful attention to your oral hygiene at this time. Pregnancy hormones can cause the tiny blood vessels in your gums to become enlarged; when plaque bacteria are not effectively removed from the mouth, the gums may become inflamed and begin to bleed. This condition is often called “pregnancy gingivitis.” If left untreated, it can progress to a more serious form of gum disease called periodontitis. That’s one reason why regular brushing and flossing are so important during pregnancy — as are routine professional cleanings.
Q: Is it safe to have dental cleanings and checkups during pregnancy?
A: Yes; in fact, it’s a very good idea to have at least one. Studies have shown that women who receive dental treatment during pregnancy face no more risks to their developing babies than those who don’t. On the other hand, poor oral health is known to cause gum disease, and is also suspected of being linked to adverse pregnancy outcomes. Routine dental exams and professional cleanings can help you maintain good oral health and avoid many potential problems during this critical time.
Q: Should I postpone more complicated dental work until after I have a baby?
A: It depends. A study recently published in the Journal of the American Dental Association found it was safe for pregnant women to have routine procedures like fillings, root canals, and extractions, even if they require local anesthesia. So treatments that are essential to an expectant mother’s health shouldn’t be put off. However, if you’re planning to have cosmetic dental work, it might be best to err on the side of caution and wait until after your baby is born.
Enamel — that tough, outermost tooth layer — protects your teeth from all sorts of hazards, from bacterial attack to temperature extremes. But although the hardest substance in the human body, enamel has a mortal enemy — acid. High acid levels can cause the minerals in enamel to dissolve, a process called de-mineralization. And although saliva can neutralize these levels in approximately 45-60 minutes and restore some of the enamel’s lost minerals, a constant acidic environment can overwhelm this natural mechanism.
That’s why you should be careful with the amount and frequency of acidic foods and drinks like citrus fruits or coffee. You should be especially concerned about your intake of sodas, energy drinks or sports drinks. The latter in particular are designed to replace fluids and nutrients during intense exercise or sports events, but are often consumed as a regular beverage. And all these drinks mentioned are often sipped on throughout the day, resulting in a constant wash of acid in your mouth that can interrupt the protective response of saliva.
There’s one other source for high mouth acidity that comes not from outside the body but from within. GERD — Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease — is a condition in which digestive acid refluxes (flows back) into the esophagus. While chronic acid reflux can damage the lining of the esophagus and lead to ulcers or even cancer, it may also pose a danger to teeth if the acid regularly rises into the mouth. Individuals encountering this will know it by the awful, acrid taste of vomit in their mouth.
To reduce the chances of high mouth acid due to food intake, limit the consumption of acidic foods and beverages to meal times and sports drink consumption to strenuous exercise or sporting events. Better yet, consider the greatest hydrator of all, water — with a neutral pH of 7.
If you’re experiencing chronic heartburn or other GERD symptoms, make an appointment to see your primary care doctor or a gastroenterologist as soon as possible. Many treatments are effective and will not only improve your general health but may also help preserve your tooth enamel.
Are bleeding gums something you should be concerned about? Many think bleeding gums is a sign they are brushing too hard; this is possible, but unlikely. It’s much more probable that irritated and bleeding gums are a sign of periodontal (gum) disease.
Periodontal disease can occur when a bacteria-rich biofilm in the mouth (also called plaque) is allowed to build up on tooth and gum surfaces. Plaque causes the gums to become inflamed, as the immune system responds to the bacteria. Eventually, this can cause gum tissue to pull away from the teeth, forming bacteria-filled “pockets” under the gum surface. If left untreated, it can lead to more serious infection, and even tooth loss.
What should you do if your gums bleed regularly when brushing or flossing? The first step is to come in for a thorough examination. In combination with a regular oral exam (and possibly x-rays or other diagnostic tests), a simple (and painless) instrument called a periodontal probe can be used to determine how far any periodontal disease may have progressed. Armed with this information, we can determine the most effective way to fight the battle against gum disease.
Above all, don’t wait too long to come in for an exam! Bleeding gums are “a sign that things aren’t quite right.
Everyone would agree that fresh breath is something to appreciate! Unfortunately, bad breath is a persistent problem for many people. The first step in treating it is to identify the cause. Here are 5 common causes of bad breath:
You have a great smile: beautiful white teeth all perfectly aligned. But unbeknownst to you, periodontal (gum) disease might even now be damaging your gum tissues, setting the stage for future tooth and bone loss — and a ruined smile.
While it’s easy to miss the early stage of this disease caused by bacterial plaque on tooth surfaces, there are a few signs if you pay close attention. Bleeding gums after moderate brushing or flossing could indicate normally resilient gum tissues have begun to weaken. You may also notice a slight redness and swelling around the margins of the gums and a bad taste or breath. As it progresses, you may experience painful abscesses (infected pockets that develop between the gums and tooth) and loose teeth, a late sign of tissue detachment and bone loss. If you are a smoker, nicotine reduces swelling and bleeding of the gums, removing signs you have a disease. If you smoke, you need to see your dentist regularly.
While renewed daily oral hygiene is important for stopping gum disease, you may also need professional care to bring it under control. The main treatment calls for the manual removal of plaque and calculus (hardened deposits of plaque) that are sustaining the infection. Dentists and hygienists both can perform scaling, which removes plaque and calculus at or just below the gum line, and root planing to clean accessible root surfaces.
In more advanced cases, though, you may need the services of a periodontist, a specialist in treating diseased or injured gums, bone and other connective tissues that support the teeth. They’re also skilled in more advanced treatments like gum flap surgery that more fully exposes a tooth’s root area for plaque and calculus (or tartar) removal, or tissue grafting procedures that improve the health and appearance of damaged gums.
If you suspect you have gum disease, the place to start is with your family dentist. They can determine if your case will respond to basic scaling, root planing or antibiotic treatment. If the disease appears more advanced or with complications, they will most likely refer you to a periodontist for treatment.
If you’ve already seen bleeding, swelling or redness, see your dentist as soon as possible. The sooner you begin treatment for any case of gum disease, the less likely it will lead to the loss not only of your teeth but your beautiful smile.
Gum disease is just as much of a concern for dentists as tooth decay. It’s important that you understand the dangers of gum disease so that you can take swift action to heal your gums and save your smile.
What Is Gum Disease?
The gums are soft pink tissues that cover the dense jawbone that keeps your teeth anchored in place. Plaque and tartar can form around the base of the gumline and cause an infection—the result is gum disease. There are three main stages of this oral condition: mild, moderate, and advanced gum disease (the latter is usually referred to as periodontitis).
The Dangers of Gum Disease
Like dental disease, gum disease can cause tooth loss when it isn’t treated quickly and thoroughly. The bad bacterium multiplies and eliminates good tissue. Gum disease can also cause the bone to deteriorate completely, and the infection can spread to other areas of the mouth if it isn’t stopped in a timely fashion. In some cases, untreated gum disease can also aggravate unrelated general health conditions, like cardiovascular issues. If you do not have the symptoms treated by a dentist and take on better hygiene habits, gum disease could have a significant effect on your oral and overall health.
Gum Disease Treatments
Your gums need immediate therapy, including an intense cleaning, when there are signs of disease. These are the most common treatments for gum disease or periodontitis that can offer:
– Scaling and root planing (a very deep cleaning around the gumline)
– Periodontal surgery (opening the soft gum tissue to completely remove diseased matter).
– Antibiotic therapy to control the infection.
– Gum grafting (to restore lost bone tissue).
– Cosmetic gum surgery (to restore gum tissue around the teeth).
Your risk for periodontal (gum) disease increases if you’re not brushing or flossing effectively. You can also have a higher risk if you’ve inherited thinner gum tissues from your parents. But there’s one other risk factor for gum disease that’s just as significant: if you have a smoking habit.
According to research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a little more than sixty percent of smokers develop gum disease in their lifetime at double the risk of non-smokers. And it’s not just cigarettes—any form of tobacco use (including smokeless) or even e-cigarettes increases the risk for gum disease.
Smoking alters the oral environment to make it friendlier for disease-causing bacteria. Some chemicals released in tobacco can damage gum tissues, which can cause them to gradually detach from the teeth. This can lead to tooth loss, which smokers are three times more likely to experience than non-smokers.
Smoking may also hide the early signs of gum disease like red, swollen or bleeding gums. But because the nicotine in tobacco restricts the blood supply to gum tissue, the gums of a smoker with gum disease may look healthy. But it’s a camouflage, which could delay prompt treatment that could prevent further damage.
Finally because tobacco can inhibit the body’s production of antibodies to fight infection, smoking may slow the healing process after gum disease treatment. This also means tobacco users have a higher risk of a repeat infection, something known as refractory periodontitis. This can create a cycle of treatment and re-infection that can significantly increase dental care costs.
It doesn’t have to be this way. You can substantially lower your risk of gum disease and its complications by quitting any kind of tobacco habit. As it leaves your system, your body will respond much quicker to heal itself. And quitting will definitely increase your chances of preventing gum disease in the first place.
Quitting, though, can be difficult, so it’s best not to go it alone. Talk with your doctor about ways to kick the habit; you may also benefit from the encouragement of family and friends, as well as support groups of others trying to quit too.