Smart Mouth: Protect yourself from periodontal disease
11/5/2015 3:34 PM
Periodontal diseases affect the tissues and bones that support the teeth. These conditions are typically painless before they become severe, which enhances the importance of routine checkups. Keeping up with oral hygiene is important in all phases of life, but Dr. Corey Carothers with Sullivan & Carothers D.D.S. in San Marcos says the risk of periodontal diseases can increase with age for several reasons.
Your mouth on meds
Prescription drugs play a big role in oral health. “One of the biggest side effects of almost all medications is dry mouth, which causes more acidity. Acidic conditions in the mouth make you more prone to cavities,” Carothers said. Drinking sodas, sweet tea and other sugary beverages magnifies the risk of creating an acidic environment in the mouth.
Getting a grip
Older adults often lose dexterity in the hands, making it harder to clench a toothbrush. Carothers recommends a power toothbrush because the handles are bigger, which allows for more control. Water picks can also be combined with flossing for more detailed cleaning. Because dexterity can be an issue, some patients may need to see the dentist more often or undergo a specialized periodontal cleaning.
| Corey Carothers, DDS
According to the American Dental Association, people with diabetes, blood cell disorders, HIV infections and AIDS are at a higher risk of periodontal disease because these conditions lower the body’s resistance to infection. In addition, ongoing inflammation from periodontitis is linked with heart disease, blocked arteries and stroke.
Because there’s a high incidence of diabetes in Central Texas, Carothers stresses the importance of keeping the condition under control.
“Research shows a direct correlation with how well you take care of your mouth and how well diabetes is controlled,” he said. “There’s a two to three times higher risk of gum disease for diabetics, and that risks jumps to three to four times higher if the diabetes is uncontrolled.”
It’s never too late
Even if dental check-ups have been neglected in the past, that’s no reason to keep putting them off. “I’ve never seen a patient and been embarrassed by the state of their mouth,” Carothers said. “I see every patient as a person who has a need or condition that is treatable. I just want to educate them and make their mouth healthy again.”
Warning Signs for Periodontal Disease
• Gums that bleed easily
• Red, swollen or tender gums
• Gums that have pulled away from teeth
• Persistent bad breath
• Pus between the teeth and gums
• Loose or separating teeth
• A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
• A change in the fit of partial dentures