One of the most widely held misconceptions about oral health is that tooth loss is a natural effect of aging. As a result, teens and even some adults fail to recognize the truth—that tooth loss is not natural. Actually, gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in Americans, with as many as three-fourths of adults losing at least one tooth in their lifetime. Dr. Ryan Hussong, who treats periodontal disease in Polk City, IA, explains that age alone is not the sole determinant of whether you develop the condition.
Sounds Scary, But What Is It?
Gum disease is an infection that affects the bone and gum tissues that hold your teeth in place. Without treatment, the jaw and gums become less effective, causing your teeth to become loose, then fall out. It begins simply enough as a slimy, clear-to-yellow buildup of plaque, a mixture of bacteria and food residue. Fueled by sugar, these bacteria produce toxins and acid that attack your tooth enamel and irritate your gum tissue. Even the healthiest, cleanest mouth is home to millions of bacteria. The key is preventing them from compromising your oral health.
What Risk Factors Exist for Teens?
Yes, aging does increase your risk of developing periodontal disease, but several additional factors contribute. If one of your parents has or had gum disease, your risk increases. Diet also plays a major role, with starchy and sugary foods and beverages causing the most concern. These include soda, energy drinks, and fast food. These substances become even more destructive if you do not brush and floss afterward.
If you wear metal braces, you will find plaque removal more difficult. Dr. Hussong recommend using either a water pick or orthodontic floss to ensure that you remove all traces of bacteria and food. Several medical conditions, such as Down syndrome and diabetes, make you more vulnerable to gum disease, as do certain medications. Staying up all night and not getting enough sleep will prevent your body from warding off infections, and this includes gum disease. Hormonal changes make girls more susceptible than boys, especially right before menstruation. And no cautionary tale would be complete without a reminder of one of the deadliest, most destructive habits—using tobacco, whether chewed or smoked. The American Dental Association advises that tobacco products significantly increase your risk for gum disease and especially for oral cancer.
How Do I Know if I Have Gum Disease?
If you visit our office for twice-yearly dental cleanings and exams, gum disease is less likely to go unnoticed. Symptoms of gum disease include:
- Red, puffy gums that bleed when you brush
- Tender gums
- Persistent bad breath or unpleasant taste
- Gum tissue that appears shiny
Tooth loss? Not cool. To learn more about preventing and treating periodontal disease in Polk City, IA, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Ryan Hussong, contact our office at (515) 984-6001. We welcome patients living in Urbandale, Ames, Ankeny, Alleman, Des Moines, and the surrounding cities.