According to a review recently published in the Journal of Dental Research, more than 700 million people globally have severe gum disease. That’s more than the populations of most countries. It’s 11% of the world.
And that makes it the 6th most prevalent health problem in the world.
(And if your gums are red, receded or bleed, or if your teeth are loose, you’re probably among that 11%.)
The study was large, analyzing 72 studies involving nearly 300,000 patients, and showed that while the condition became more common with age, the biggest spike came during the second and third decades of life, peaking at age 38.
Periodontal disease is a progressive disease – and like most chronic conditions, it’s mostly preventable.
Lack of sleep, chronic stress and daily alcohol consumption have all been found to raise risk of gum disease, but the biggest risk factor by far is smoking – a fact recently reconfirmed by a re-examination of the association published in the Journal of Periodontology.
Earlier research has estimated that smoking raises your risk of gum disease by anywhere from two- to 14-fold. About 90% of all cases of severe, persistent and treatment-resistant periodontitis involve smokers. The chance of losing teeth is more than quadruple.
Yes, losing teeth. Because gum disease doesn’t just affect the gums. Smoking aggravates bone loss – eventually to the point where there’s no longer enough structure to support the teeth. Without proper periodontal treatment, the teeth may loosen and eventually fall out.
And it’s not just the mouth that’s at risk. Research has shown significant links between gum disease and chronic, systemic health problems. These include heart disease, diabetes and pregnancy complications, among others.
But removing risk factors is just half the equation. The other half is good hygiene – both at home and regular dental visits – and good nutrition.
Good hygiene means flossing regularly, to clean the sides of your teeth and at the gum line. Oral pathogens especially love those harder-to-reach areas. They stand a better chance of being left alone. Dislike flossing? Try proxy brushes or an oral irrigator such as a Waterpik instead. With these, herbal antimicrobial blends such as those from the Dental Herb Company can be used for extra help in controlling bacteria. (Just dip your proxy brush in them or add a bit to the water you put in your irrigator).
Food-wise, cutting your sugar intake is critical for preventing oral health problems. After all, gum disease is an inflammatory condition, and sugar strongly fuels inflammation. Antioxidant-rich foods, on the other hand, can help tame it. Vitamins C and E are especially important for gum health, and you’ve a wide variety of foods you can add to your diet to increase your intake – from nuts, avocado and fish (and more) for E to kale, kiwi and tomatoes (and more) for C (and, yes, citrus, too!).
And if you already have periodontal disease? Fortunately, it can be effectively treated. But the best option? Not needing treatment at all.
Image via gumsbleeding.com