When you think of your oral health, most people go right for the teeth. After all, isn’t that what we’re after? A nice, bright, healthy smile. But when it comes to your overall oral health, your gums and teeth should really go hand in hand. Your gums are made from soft tissue that forms a seal around the teeth, protecting the bone underneath and providing a barrier against infection. If you want to keep that smile of yours in good shape, your best bet is to keep your gums nice and healthy.
What is gum disease?
Gum disease, also known as periodontitis, is basically an infection of the gums. It is extremely common even though the condition is almost entirely preventable. Gum disease is usually a result of poor oral hygiene. A lack of good oral health care and dental visits cause plaque and tartar to build up on the surface of your teeth. Plaque is made up of bacteria that invade the soft tissue of the gums, making them turn red, swollen, and tender. Early gum disease is known as gingivitis and is usually reversible. Advanced stages of gum disease can lead to loss of gum tissue and bone. Teeth may become loose, chewing becomes painful and tooth loss becomes a real danger. Studies show that gingivitis and advanced periodontitis also contribute to a host of other medical issues, including diabetes and heart disease.
Healthy Gums vs. Unhealthy Gums
Your dentist or dental hygienist can spot gum disease at a very early stage. Besides being professionally trained, they look at gums all day long. They are constantly able to compare gum health from patient to patient. It’s harder for us non-professionals. When you look in the mirror, gums always look pink, right? Next time you’re brushing your teeth, take a good look at your gum line. Healthy gums are firm, solidly pink, and form a good seal around each tooth. Symptoms of gingivitis include redness or swelling along the tooth line. You may even notice that your gum line is receding away from the teeth.
Gums that have these characteristics should have a periodontal exam done by a dental professional. During a periodontal exam, your dentist or hygienist will check for pockets, or spaces, between the tooth and gums. Healthy gums should have spaces that measure 3mm or less. As periodontitis progresses, the pockets tend to get deeper. This coupled with the amount of bleeding in the mouth will determine your diagnosis and treatment recommendations.
6 Ways to Keep Your Gums Healthy
The good news is that it’s pretty easy to help prevent gum disease. A good oral hygiene routine should take less than 15 minutes a day. Below are 6 tips that will keep your teeth and gums strong and healthy.
Brush at Least Twice a Day
The American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth for at least two minutes both in the morning when you wake up and before you go to sleep. This will remove the plaque that builds up on your teeth throughout the day. If plaque is not removed on a regular basis, it mineralizes into calculus or tartar, which requires a professional to scrape it off the surface of teeth. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush that is comfortable to use. If you have any sensitivity issues, choose a toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth. And don’t forget your tongue! The same bacteria that coats your teeth also lives on your tongue, so brush that as well for best results.
Also, if you can, invest in an electric toothbrush. They do a much better job reducing symptoms of gingivitis and are engineered for maximum plaque removal. Just be sure to change your toothbrush or your brush heads every three months.
Floss Your Teeth
Did you know that brushing alone only reaches 60% of your mouth? According to the ADA, flossing is the only way to remove plaque and food in between your teeth and above the gum line. Doing it before you brush your teeth is best, otherwise, the foods removed by the floss will stay in your mouth and on your teeth until the next time you brush. Other than that, it doesn’t matter when you floss! Do it in the morning or evening, or even after lunch. The most important thing is to make sure you’re flossing at least once every twenty-four hours.
Use a Fluoride Toothpaste
There are many different types of toothpaste to choose from, and they all promote healthy teeth and gums. Which one should you choose? It’s actually pretty simple – look for one that has fluoride and has the American Dental Association seal of approval. Once you check those two things off the list, go with any flavor or color that appeals to you!
Finish Up With a Good Mouthwash
Therapeutic mouthwash is specially formulated to help reduce the bacteria that cause tooth decay. A good rinse with mouthwash also removes food particles from the mouth. Again, choose a product that has the ADA Seal of Approval. It’s not enough to use mouthwash alone. The combination of brushing, flossing, and rinsing is the best way to prevent gum disease.
Visit Your Dentist Regularly
As we said before, your dentist can see the signs of early gum disease, so it’s best to visit regularly for advice, diagnosis, or treatment if necessary. Having your teeth professionally cleaned will take care of those areas you tend to miss, and it’s the only way to remove tartar. A good cleaning followed by good oral care at home will prevent tooth decay and even reverse early gum disease. Contact us today so we can get you scheduled for your next appointment!
There are a lot of reasons to quit smoking, and the threat of gum disease is on the list. Smoking has been medically proven to weaken your immune system, making it harder to fight off an infection of your gums. It can also inhibit healing, making it difficult for your gums to heal once damage occurs. If healthy gums are on your bucket list, quitting smoking is one way to get there.
Prevention is Key
With a little self-care, healthy gums are definitely within your reach. Good oral health practices at home combined with regular professional dental care are the easiest ways to keep your smile shining bright. If you’ve been putting off a visit to your dental office, or notice any bleeding or swollen gums, take action now while the problem is still reversible. We can give you the medical advice you need to keep gum disease at bay.