When we think of health issues related to aging, problems like heart disease or arthritis might spring to mind. But there's another health concern that's often overlooked, yet incredibly common among older adults - gum disease. As we age, our bodies undergo numerous changes, and our oral health is no exception.
Understanding Gum Disease
Gum disease can be broadly categorized into two types: gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis, the milder form, is characterized by red and swollen gums that bleed easily. It's often a result of inadequate oral hygiene and can usually be reversed with daily brushing, flossing, and regular cleanings by a dentist or dental hygienist.
Periodontitis, on the other hand, is a more severe form of gum disease. It involves inflammation and infection that spreads beyond the gums to the ligaments and bone that support the teeth. If left untreated, periodontitis can result in significant damage to the soft tissue and bone, leading to loose teeth, or worse, tooth loss.
Gum disease is often silent, meaning symptoms may not appear until an advanced stage of the disease. That's why regular dental check-ups are so essential. They allow for early detection and treatment, which can prevent the disease from progressing.
The Aging Process and Oral Health
The process of aging impacts every part of our bodies, including our oral health. As we age, our mouths naturally undergo several changes. Saliva production may decrease, leading to a dry mouth and increasing the risk of oral diseases. Gums naturally recede over time, exposing more of the tooth surface and root to potential decay.
Additionally, certain medications commonly taken by older adults, such as antihypertensives or antidepressants, can impact oral health by reducing saliva flow, thus increasing the risk of gum disease. The normal wear and tear of the teeth's enamel surface, combined with years of consuming stain-causing foods and drinks, can also result in tooth discoloration or decay.
Is There a Correlation Between Gum Disease and Aging?
The answer is “yes”. Aging is a risk factor for gum disease due to several reasons discussed earlier, such as decreased saliva production, gum recession, medication side effects, and general wear and tear of the teeth.
While gum disease can occur at any age, it is most common among adults over 30, and its prevalence increases significantly with age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 70.1% of adults 65 years and older have periodontal disease. This clearly demonstrates the correlation between gum disease and aging.
The Importance of Regular Dental Check-Ups
Given the correlation between gum disease and aging, regular dental check-ups become increasingly important as we get older. Regular dental visits allow for the early detection of gum disease when it's still reversible. Dentists can provide professional cleanings to remove plaque and tartar, which are the main causes of gum disease.
During these visits, your dentist can also examine your gums for any signs of inflammation or recession. Regular dental check-ups are not just for your teeth, but also for your overall health. Research has shown that gum disease is associated with other health complications such as heart disease and diabetes, so maintaining good oral health can contribute to overall health and well-being.
Prevention Strategies and Gum Disease Treatment Options
Preventing gum disease starts with good oral hygiene. This includes brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing daily, and using an antibacterial mouthwash to help control plaque bacteria. Regular dental check-ups and cleanings are also crucial, as your dentist can detect early signs of gum disease before they become serious.
If you've been diagnosed with gum disease, there are several treatment options available. For mild cases of gum disease, lifestyle changes and improved oral hygiene may be enough. For more severe cases, treatments may include deep cleaning procedures such as scaling and root planing, medications, or in some cases, surgical treatments.
Professional Help for Gum Disease- When to See a Dentist?
If you notice any signs of gum disease, such as red, swollen, or bleeding gums, loose teeth, persistent bad breath, or changes in your bite, it's important to see a dentist as soon as possible. Even if you don't have any symptoms, regular dental check-ups are important as gum disease can be silent and progress without noticeable symptoms.
The earlier gum disease is caught, the easier it is to treat. Don't wait until it's too late. If you are an older adult, regular dental check-ups are especially important due to the increased risk of gum disease with age.
Take Steps to Protect Your Oral Health Today
There is indeed a correlation between gum disease and aging. Age brings about various changes in our oral health that can increase the risk of gum disease. However, with good oral hygiene, regular dental check-ups, and early intervention, gum disease can be prevented or managed effectively. As we age, let's not forget to take care of our oral health as it is a vital part of our overall health and well-being.
To learn more about the correlation between gum disease and aging, visit Marine Park Periodontics and Implantology at our office in Brooklyn, New York. Call (646) 863-4810 to schedule an appointment today.