Cavities and gum disease are connected — learn how to prevent each condition.
Cavities and gum disease are the top two oral health problems in the U.S., with 90 percent of adults having at least one cavity and four in 10 people aged 30 or older having gum disease (periodontitis). But could these two common conditions be related?
Both stem primarily from poor dental hygiene habits, so cavities and gum disease are linked. Insufficient oral care and a lack of treatment for cavities and gum disease may lead to more severe complications, such as tooth loss. Let’s take a closer look at each condition and how they are related.
Cavities and gum disease
Bacteria in your mouth form a sticky film over your teeth known as plaque. Regular brushing clears off most of the plaque, but if left to settle on the teeth, the bacteria in plaque combine with the sugars in sweets and starches to produce an acid. A cavity develops when the acid burrows through the first layer of your tooth (enamel).
You may not notice any symptoms at first. But as the acid spreads deeper into the tooth, you’ll experience severe toothache, sensitivity, and possible pain when chewing. Tooth decay (caries) can be treated by removing the decay and plugging the hole with a dental filling.
Meanwhile, gum disease develops when bacteria and plaque blend into a hardened substance called tartar. Tartar attracts even more bacteria, which then irritates and infects the gums. As the infection takes hold, the gums become swollen and bleed easily. Gum recession, bad breath, and pockets of pus on the gums signal gum disease. Without treatment, gum disease can weaken the gum and bone tissue securing the tooth and result in its loss.
At its earliest stage, gum disease can be reversed with a more thorough removal of bacteria from the tooth and its root. Excellent at-home care can also cure early-stage gum disease. More advanced gum disease can be managed with surgical procedures to build up the gum and bone tissue to keep the tooth in place.
So, what is the connection between cavities and gum disease?
A continual buildup of bacteria, plaque, and tartar on the teeth and gums leads to tooth decay and gum disease. If neither condition is addressed by a dentist, tooth loss is a possible outcome.
For instance, untreated tooth decay can weaken the tooth to the point where it fractures. Since a simple filling or root canal cannot repair a broken tooth, it must be extracted.
Healthy oral habits to prevent cavities and gum disease
Although quite common, cavities and gum disease are not inevitable. Both can be prevented with healthy oral habits, such as the following:
Brush and floss daily. Brushing with fluoride toothpaste removes a good portion of bacteria and plaque, stopping those elements from further damaging your teeth and gums. Flossing gets into the spaces between teeth where bacteria and plaque can hide.
Boost fluoride intake. Upping your fluoride intake is as easy as drinking from your tap. Since most municipal water supplies are fortified with fluoride, it’s a better choice than bottled water.
Quit smoking. A top risk factor for gum disease is smoking. Tobacco can also make healing from gum disease more difficult. So quit cigarettes now for your oral health.
Skip the sweets. Sugar is a major factor in creating the acids causing tooth decay. Although delicious, the sugars in sweet treats such as ice cream, cake, cookies, and mints cling to your teeth longer, giving bacteria and plaque a chance to grow. Limit sweets to an occasional indulgence and brush soon afterward.
See your dentist. Don’t wait until a toothache becomes unbearable. Schedule twice-annual dental checkups. The hygienist can remove the tartar you cannot with regular brushing, while your dentist can examine your teeth and gums for any signs of decay or disease and start treatment immediately.
Don’t let your oral health suffer
Schedule an appointment at Espire’s location in Mission Valley, CA, today! Our highly trained dentists can diagnose and treat cavities and gum disease. Your oral health is essential to us, so make an appointment today.
Don’t live near our Mission Valley, CA, office? Find one of our other locations near you.
Mission Valley, CA
8989 Rio San Diego Drive
San Diego, CA 92108