Preventing Gum Disease

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Adults past the age of 35 lose more teeth to gum diseases than to cavities. Three out of four adults are affected at some time in their life. The best way to try to prevent cavities and periodontal disease is by good tooth brushing and flossing techniques, performed daily, and regular professional examinations and cleanings.

Unfortunately, even with the most diligent home dental care, people still can develop some form of periodontal disease. Once this disease starts, professional intervention is necessary to prevent its progress.

Other important factors affecting the health of your gums include:

  • Tobacco Use
  • Diabetes
  • Stress
  • Clenching and grinding teeth
  • Medications

For more information, visit the American Academy of Periodontology website:

Periodontal Disease and Tobacco

You are probably familiar with the links between tobacco use and lung disease, cancer and heart disease. Current studies have now linked periodontal disease with tobacco usage. There is a greater incidence of calculus formation on teeth, deeper pockets between gums and teeth as well as greater loss of the bone and fibers that hold teeth in your mouth. In addition, your chance of developing oral cancer increases with all forms of tobacco products, including the use of smokeless tobacco.

Chemicals in tobacco such as nicotine and tar slow down healing and the predictability of success following periodontal treatment.

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Problems caused by tobacco include:

Lung disease, heart disease, cancer, mouth sores, gum recession, loss of bone and teeth, bad breath, tooth staining, reduced success with advanced periodontal treatment and with dental implants.

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Quitting or even reducing the amount of tobacco use will reduce the chance of developing the above problems.

Diabetes and Oral Health

Individuals suffering from diabetes, especially uncontrolled diabetics, have a higher risk of developing bacterial infections of the mouth. These infections may impair your ability to process insulin, resulting in greater difficulty with controlling your diabetes. Periodontal diseases tend to be more severe and rapidly progressive in uncontrolled diabetics.

Steps to prevent periodontal disease include daily brushing and flossing to remove plaque from your teeth and gums; regular dental visits for professional cleaning and regular periodontal evaluations. Your health professional must also be told of your history and the current status of your condition. And finally, you can help resist periodontal infection by maintaining control of your blood sugar levels.

Women and Periodontal Health

Throughout a woman’s life, hormonal changes affect tissue throughout the body. Fluctuations in levels occur during puberty, pregnancy and menopause. At these times, the chance of periodontal disease may increase, requiring special care for your oral health.


During puberty, there is increased production of sex hormones. These higher levels increase gum sensitivity and lead to greater irritations from plaque and food particles. The gums can become swollen, turn red and feel tender.


Similar symptoms occasionally appear several days before menstruation. There can be bleeding of the gums, bright red swelling between the teeth and gum, or sores on the inside of the cheek. The symptoms are significantly reduced once the plaque has been removed.


Periodontal health should be part of your prenatal care. Any infections during pregnancy, including periodontal infections, can place a baby’s health at risk. Patients with untreated periodontal disease have a higher risk of having a preterm, low birth-weight baby. According to some estimates, periodontitis may contribute to as many as 45,000 preterm, low birth-weight babies every year. That is more than those attributed to smoking and alcohol use.

smiling woman long hairBabies who are born prior to the 36th week of pregnancy, and weigh less than 5lbs. 8 oz., are referred to as preterm, low birth-weight babies. Some of these babies can develop slowly and experience serious health problems. These health problems include cerebral palsy, epilepsy, chronic lung disease, learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder.

The best way to prevent periodontal infections is to begin with healthy gums and continue to maintain your oral health with proper home care. You should be evaluated early on in your pregnancy for periodontal disease. There should be careful periodic monitoring with your Family Dentist or Dr. Bye.

Your gums and teeth are also affected during pregnancy. Between the second and eighth months, your gums may also swell, bleed and become red or tender. A Pregnancy tumor (e.g. pyogenic granuloma) may appear as a reaction to local irritants. These growths are generally not cancerous, but they may require professional removal.

Oral Contraceptives

Swelling, bleeding and tenderness of the gums may also occur when you are taking oral contraceptives, which are synthetic hormones.

You must mention any prescriptions you are taking, including oral contraceptives, prior to medical or dental treatment. This will help eliminate the risk of drug interactions, such as antibiotics with oral contraceptives where the effectiveness of the contraceptive can be lessened.


Changes in the look and feel of your mouth may occur if you are menopausal or post-menopausal. They include feeling pain and burning in your gum tissue and salty, peppery or sour tastes. Please be sure and mention these symptoms to Dr. Bye or your Family Dentist.

Careful oral hygiene at home and professional cleaning may relieve these symptoms. There are also saliva substitutes to treat the effects of dry mouth, which can occur in postmenopausal women.

smiling blond womanHeart & Periodontal Disease

Its possible that if you have periodontal disease, you may be at risk for cardiovascular disease. For a long time, we’ve known that bacteria may affect the heart. Now evidence is mounting that suggests people with periodontal disease a bacterial infection, may be more at risk for heart disease and have nearly twice the risk of having a fatal attack, than patients with periodontal disease.

Respiratory & Periodontal Disease

You may be at risk for respiratory disease if you have periodontal disease. We’ve known that people who smoke, are elderly, or have other health problems that suppress the immune system, are at increased risk for the development of respiratory diseases like pneumonia, bronchitis, emphysema and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Now growing research is beginning to suggest a new risk factor-periodontal disease. If you have periodontal disease, you may be at increased risk for respiratory disease.