Is flossing really that important? In one word: yes! A study by the Journal of Dental Research reports that more than 50% of the population has gum disease, AKA periodontal disease, that could be prevented by more flossing.
Periodontal disease is a fairly common condition that can lead to results as minor as tooth loss and as serious as a heart attack or stroke. Periodontal disease can be one of two types: gingivitis or periodontitis. GIngivitis is the less serious of the two, and more common than periodontitis.
Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria and inflammation. If plaque (made up of bacteria, food particles, and mucus) builds up on your teeth and is not brushed away it hardens into tartar (calculus), which can happen in as fast as two days. When tartar gets stuck on your teeth, you cannot brush or floss it away on your own at home.
[Related: Understanding Gum Disease]
The bacteria in plaque and tartar causes inflammation of the gums, causing the gums to pull away from the teeth and form pockets that fill with more tartar and bacteria. As the bacteria grows, inflammation can spread to the ligaments and bone that hold your teeth in place, and once that happens, you officially have periodontitis.
How can gum inflammation lead to all of these things? Research suggests that the bacteria growing in your gums enters your bloodstream through the gum tissue, and then can circulate through your body to your heart, lungs, and other important organs.
The good news is that if you improve your periodontal health, you can see dramatic savings in annual medical costs. Studies show that if you are pregnant, the average medical savings are 74% if you have good oral health. This helps you avoid costs associated with premature birth. If you struggle with heart problems or diabetes you can also lower your medical costs by up to 40% with proper oral hygiene.
[Related: What is Periodontal Maintenance?]
Symptoms include red or shiny gums, gums that bleed easily, gums that hurt when touched, swollen gums, chronic bad breath, loose teeth, receding gum lines, and pus.
Now that you know what to look for, you may be asking how you can prevent periodontal disease. The answer is easier than you think. Good oral home care and regular visits to your dentists should do the trick.
Brush with a soft bristle brush at least twice a day holding the bristles of your brush at a 45 degree angle to your gums, and moving in a circular motion, and floss at least once (more if you can manage) every day, wrapping the floss around each side of the tooth and sliding it up into the gum line.
Visit your dentist once or twice a year for regular check-ups and cleanings and you should be in good oral health!
Now you know why flossing is so important — not just for your oral health, but for your overall health. If you haven’t been to the dentist in a while, or think that you have some of the symptoms of periodontal disease, make an appointment, your heart will thank you!
Contact us at Cascadia Dental Specialists to find out more about periodontal disease or to set up an appointment.