Why Gum Health Matters

Everyone wants a dazzling set of pearly whites, but teeth are only half the story of what makes a truly healthy smile. Equally essential, and yet so often overlooked, is the health of your gums. That’s right, that pink tissue surrounding and supporting your teeth plays a vital role in your oral health, and it deserves as much care and attention as your teeth. In fact, healthy teeth and healthy gums are so intricately linked that you simply can’t have one without the other.

Just as a house needs a strong foundation, your teeth require healthy gums to provide a solid base for a vibrant smile. So, let’s take a closer look at why gum health matters, including some shocking stats and three actionable things you can do right now to protect your smile.

5 Facts About Gum Disease You Need to Know

Many people think that gum disease, or periodontitis, is a rare condition or one that only affects the elderly. But the truth is that it’s more common and more harmful than most people realize, leading to pain, gum recession, and even tooth loss in severe cases. It’s also closely linked to systemic health issues like heart disease and diabetes

Here are 5 surprising statistics that underscore the importance of prioritizing gum health.

1. Nearly half of US adults are suffering from gum disease.

That’s right, nearly 50% of Americans aged 30 and above are living with some form of gum disease. This startling statistic emphasizes the pervasiveness of this oral health issue.

Gum disease, which ranges from simple gum inflammation, known as gingivitis, to serious damage to the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth, is anything but rare. Later-stage gum disease is called periodontitis. Unfortunately, many people may not even realize they have gum disease, as symptoms can be subtle and progress slowly.

2. The older you get, the more likely you will have gum disease.

As we add more candles to our birthday cake, the risk of periodontal disease also rises. According to research, gum disease skyrockets in individuals aged 65 and above, with approximately 70% of people in this age group having some form of gum disease.

Older people may face challenges in maintaining oral hygiene due to physical limitations or cognitive impairments, further contributing to the risk of gum disease. This makes proactively caring for our gums throughout life, and especially in our later years, of utmost importance in maintaining our overall health.

3. A vast majority of tobacco smokers have chronic periodontitis.

When it comes to gum health, smoking stands out as a significant detrimental factor. Research reveals a startling fact: more than 81% of long-term smokers develop chronic periodontitis. This correlation stems from the adverse effects that smoking has on our oral environment.

Smoking reduces the mouth’s ability to fight off bacterial infection, which is precisely what gum disease is. It decreases saliva production, which plays a crucial role in rinsing away bacteria and neutralizing harmful acids. Nicotine also causes blood vessels to shrink, which impairs the flow of nutrient-rich blood to the gums, resulting in weakened gum tissue and slower healing.

4. People with depression symptoms are more likely to develop gum disease.

Depression and similar mental health challenges can have surprising effects on gum health, greatly increasing the likelihood of developing gum disease. This connection may seem unexpected, but it’s rooted in the behavioral changes and physiological impacts associated with depression.

People grappling with depression may neglect their oral hygiene due to a lack of motivation, fatigue, or feelings of being overwhelmed, making it easier for gum disease–causing bacteria to take hold. Depression can trigger physiological changes, such as increased levels of stress hormones and inflammation in the body, which may contribute to weakened gum health. Certain medications used to manage depression can also cause dry mouth, reducing the protective benefits of saliva and further increasing the risk of gum disease.

5. Gum disease greatly heightens risks for a cardiac event.

Gum disease not only affects oral health, but it also poses a significant risk to heart health. Research has shown a clear connection between gum disease and cardiovascular disease, with the risk of experiencing a cardiac event being three times as high for people with gum disease.

The reason for this lies in the bacteria that cause gum disease. These harmful bacteria can enter the bloodstream through the gums, travel to the heart, and lead to atherosclerosis. This condition results in plaque development on the internal walls of the arteries, which can decrease or block blood flow, thus elevating the risk of a heart attack. Inflammation caused by gum disease can also lead to the swelling of arteries, further exacerbating the problem.

How to Keep Your Gums Healthy

You can start protecting your smile from gingivitis and periodontitis today by practicing these 3 habits.

1. Visit your dentist every six months for a check-up and cleaning.

Regular dental check-ups, ideally every six months, are vital to maintaining healthy gums and preventing diseases such as gingivitis. These visits provide your dentist with an opportunity to detect early signs of gum disease and instigate immediate preventative measures. Dental hygienists complement this process by conducting professional cleanings that remove harmful plaque and tartar often missed by daily oral hygiene practices.

For those already suffering from gum disease, a dental deep cleaning procedure called periodontal therapy can be beneficial. This process eliminates bacteria from under the gum line, a common area for bacterial hideouts causing damage. Periodontal therapy can notably decelerate gum disease progression and, in some instances, even restore gum health.

2. Practice every step of a healthy at-home dental care routine.

While brushing your teeth twice a day is a fundamental step in maintaining gum health, it isn’t enough on its own to prevent gum disease. The spaces between your teeth are perfect hideouts for food debris and bacteria, leading to plaque buildup.

Flossing daily removes these hidden culprits, helping to prevent gum inflammation and gingivitis. It’s also essential to use dental care products, such as toothpaste and mouthwash, that have been approved by the American Dental Association (ADA). These items are tested to ensure they are safe and effective in maintaining healthy gums, providing an added barrier against gum disease.

3. Always keep underlying health conditions well-managed.

Certain systemic health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, have been linked to an increased risk of gum disease. Poor control over these conditions can exacerbate inflammation in the body, including the gums, setting the stage for gingivitis and periodontal disease.

It’s crucial for individuals with such conditions to not only keep their diseases well-managed but also to communicate these health issues with their dentist. This way, a more personalized preventive plan can be developed to protect their gum health.

Visit Ada Smile Place for all of your gum health needs.

Your gum health is our number one priority at Ada Smile Place. Our experienced team, including our trusted family dentists in Ada, OK, are well-versed in detecting the earliest signs of gum disease and implementing effective preventative strategies. We believe in personalized care and will work closely with you to design a dental health routine to keep gum disease at bay, considering your unique needs and health conditions.

Don’t let gum disease rob you of your beautiful smile. Let’s partner together in this journey to maintain your gum health. Reach out to us today to schedule an appointment with our dedicated team.