Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is one of the most common oral health problems. According to the Canadian Dental Association, seven out of ten Canadians will develop gum disease at some point during their lives. So what is gum disease, and how can it be prevented?
Gum disease is caused by a buildup of bacteria between the gums and the teeth. The gums become inflamed as the bacteria in plaque grows. If left untreated, this inflammation can lead to the deterioration of the gums and bone structure within the mouth. Gum disease, while common, is preventable through the maintenance of good oral hygiene and a healthy lifestyle. If you’re considering a career as a dental assistant, read on to discover some tips you can pass on to patients–in order to prevent the development of gum disease and promote oral health.
1. Ensure Patients Brush and Floss to Control Plaque
Plaque carries bacteria, and the buildup of plaque can inflame the gums, eventually leading to gum disease. In order to remove plaque, patients must ensure that they are brushing and flossing regularly. Brushing for two to three minutes twice a day can prevent plaque from sticking to the teeth and remove food debris, but it’s important that patients brush along the gum line instead of scrubbing the gums directly. Direct contact with a toothbrush can cause the gums to recede instead of promoting healthy alignment with the teeth.
After completing your dental assistant training, you will also need to instruct patients to floss daily. Flossing removes plaque from places that a toothbrush can’t access, such as in between the teeth. By brushing and flossing regularly, patients can reduce their risk for developing gum disease and control the levels of plaque on their teeth.
2. Advise Patients to Eat a Healthy Diet
Our diet has a significant influence on the health of our gums. While starchy or sugary foods and beverages promote bacteria growth and lead to plaque buildup, other foods can boost immunity and prevent the development of gum disease. Patients should be sure to eat plenty of nutrients, minerals and vitamins in order to keep their gums healthy. Foods rich in Vitamin A, C, and E are especially important. Vitamin C has been shown to prevent and cure gum disease–with properties that prevent bleeding, receding, and swelling of the gums. Leafy greens and nuts contain Vitamin E, which can work to repair tissue damage. When eating a balanced and healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables, patients can improve their oral health and prevent gum disease.
3. It Is Important for Patients to Drink Plenty of Water
As you may learn in dental assistant school, drinking water increases the levels of saliva in the mouth. Saliva plays an important role in flushing out food debris and removing bacteria, both of which can lead to the infection of the gums. Simply by staying hydrated throughout the day, patients can enhance their oral health and ward off disease-causing bacteria.
4. Ensure Patients Know to Avoid Tobacco Products
Using tobacco products can lead to many health problems, including gum disease and oral cancer. Tobacco products play a leading role in deteriorating gum tissues, leaving patients more vulnerable to the development of gum disease. If a patient is a smoker, one of the simplest ways they can prevent gum disease is by cutting down on their tobacco intake or avoiding tobacco altogether.
5. Help Patients Schedule Their Next Dental Visit
At a dental checkup, patients can not only have their teeth professionally cleaned, but dental professionals can examine them for any signs of gum disease. A professional cleaning is essential in removing additional plaque and debris in hard-to-reach places. Regular visits to the dentist also give patients an opportunity to catch gum disease and work to prevent it before it escalates. As a dental assistant, ensure that all patients are booked for regular appointments as a preventative measure against the development of gum disease.
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