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5 Steps To Prevent Periodontal Disease

Robin Wulffson MD's picture
gum disease, periodontal disease, teeth loss, prevention

According to a new study, almost 50% of Americans older than age 30 have periodontal disease. Commonly referred to as gum disease, the condition is an inflammation of the gums that, if sever, can lead to the loss of teeth. The study, which was published in the October issue of the Journal of Dental Research, was conducted by researchers at the American Academy of Periodontology and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The researchers accessed data from the 2009 and 2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) cycle and estimated the prevalence, severity, and extent of periodontitis in the adult US population. The estimates were derived from a sample of 3,742 adults aged 30 years and older, of the civilian non-institutionalized population, having one or more natural teeth. Attachment loss (AL) and probing depth (PD) were measured at six sites per tooth on all teeth (except the third molars). (AL refers to the attachment of the tooth to the jaw; PD refers to the depth a dental probe can be inserted to a gum pocket adjacent to the tooth. More than 47% of the individuals, representing 64.7 million adults, had periodontitis, distributed as mild (8.7%), moderate (30.0%), and severe (8.5%P periodontitis. For adults aged 65 years and older, 64% had either moderate or severe periodontitis. The researchers theorized that this may be due to deterioration of mild periodontitis cases with increasing age. Of those with periodontal disease, 86% had one or more teeth with AL of 3 ml or more; 40.9% had one or more teeth with PD of 4 mm or more.

In respect to the extent of disease, 56% of the adult population had 5% or more periodontal sites with AL of 3 ml or more; 18% of the adult population had 5% or more periodontal sites with PD of 4 mm or more. Periodontitis was highest in men, Mexican Americans, adults with less than a high school education, adults below 100% Federal Poverty Levels (FPL), and current smokers.

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The researchers concluded that the survey has “provided direct evidence for a high burden of periodontitis in the adult US population.” They added that the higher burden of periodontitis in the adult US population and the prevailing disparities among socio-demographic segments revealed by the survey, coupled with the potential economic cost for prevention and treatment, suggest periodontitis as an important dental public health problem, especially among our aging population,

The American Dental Association (ADA) note that periodontal disease can be prevented with the following steps:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day.
  • Clean between your teeth with floss or another interdental cleaner once every day.
  • Visit your dentist for a checkup and professional cleaning regularly.
  • Show your dentist or dental hygienist how you brush and clean between your teeth and ask if you can make any improvements.
  • If you smoke or chew tobacco, stop. Tobacco use increases the risk of developing periodontal disease.

Researchers have reported associations between periodontal disease and a host of other conditions. (Keep in mind that an association does not mean that one disease causes the other. It means that one disease or condition tends to appear at the same time as the other.) For example, studies have shown that people with diabetes tend to have periodontal disease more often than those without diabetes, and often the disease is more severe than that in other people. Researchers also have found that some people with diabetes who receive treatment for periodontal disease see improvements in their ability to control blood sugar levels after those treatments. Therefore, keep in mind that your daily oral health routine and professional dental care are more than just taking care of your teeth. They are important steps in taking care of yourself.

Reference: Journal of Dental Research

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