Practising good oral hygiene is the most important action that a person can take to prevent and treat gum disease. Most people tend to overlook their gums when it comes to oral health and instead focuses on getting a bright, white smile. However, doing this can lead to many oral health problems.
Why is it important to maintain healthy gums?
When it comes to oral health, it’s not just about having straight, white teeth. Even if you’re cavity-free and appear to have a Hollywood smile – that doesn’t mean you’re immune to gum disease. Since it’s usually painless, most people have no idea that anything is wrong with their gums.
What is gum disease?
There are different stages of gum disease, but it starts when plaque builds up under and along the gum line. Plaque is a sticky film-like substance that’s filled with bacteria. It can cause painful infections that affect the gum and bone, in the worst cases leading to gum disease and tooth decay.
Plaque also can cause gingivitis – the earliest stage of gum disease. Gingivitis causes your gums to become inflamed, tender, swollen and prone to bleeding. Fortunately, the gum disease doesn’t affect the bone and tissue holding the teeth in place at this stage, so the damage is reversible.
However, if left untreated, you can also develop periodontitis, an advanced form of gum disease. Periodontitis impacts the bones that hold your teeth in place. If this is left untreated, it can ruin the gums, bones, and tissues connected to your teeth, which will then lead to the final stage of gum disease – advanced periodontitis. This is when the fibres and bone supporting your teeth are destroyed. It can impact your bite, and teeth may need to be removed. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), signs that you might have gum disease include consistently bad taste or breath, separating or losing permanent teeth, gums that are swollen, easily bleed or pull away from your teeth. As scary as gum disease is, it is preventable – so what can you do to help ensure you’re looking after your gums.
How to look after your gums
A healthy mouth starts at the gums; maintaining an oral health routine focused on the health of your gums is crucial to overall oral hygiene. When you have healthy gums, your teeth are well-supported by the tissue in your gums, and your chances for long-term oral health are significantly increased. If you don’t maintain healthy gums, you are more likely to have gum disease, which can progress to several problems with your teeth and oral health. As we discussed above, other long-term, chronic health conditions can be associated with periodontitis, a severe form of gum disease.
Healthy lifestyle & diet
As with overall body health, you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle and especially diet to have good oral health. It’s key to include foods with omega-3, calcium and vitamin D in your diet. Remember to include plenty of calcium-rich foods such as milk, yoghurt, and cheese; calcium maintains the bone the tooth roots are embedded in. This is particularly important for older adults and children during the development of both baby and adult teeth. Stay away from sticky sweets, such as soft candies, toffees, pastries and if you chew gum, chew sugar-free brands.
When you’re stressed, your body releases cortisol which can worsen gum disease. When you’re stressed out, you’re more likely to neglect your health so try to maintain a balanced lifestyle and make sure you’re getting 6-8 hours of sleep every night.
Smoking can cause gum disease and make it worse if you already have it. The gums are affected because smoking causes a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream, so the infected gums don’t heal. Smoking causes people to have more dental plaque and causes gum disease to worsen more quickly than in non-smokers.
Visit your dentist
Visiting the dentist every six months is vital for overall oral health. Several health issues, such as heart disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, are associated with gum health. Stay on top of your gum and overall health.
Flossing may be one of the most important things you can do to help prevent gum problems and maintain healthy gums. There are also types of soft floss that make flossing more comfortable, so people with sensitive gums can floss without irritating their gums. Another option is interdental devices such as dental picks and flossers to clean between the teeth.
Using an anti-gingivitis mouthwash as part of your oral care routine can help kill the bacteria that cause plaque to maintain healthy gums and teeth. Frequently using mouthwash may offer you additional benefits like whitening, enamel protection, or cavity protection.
As you can see, there are many ways to prevent gum disease, and most of them start right at home. Even if you’re not concerned about developing gum disease, to make sure you’re taking the best care of your teeth, you should still pay regular visits to your dentist. Even with optimal dental hygiene habits, you’re still at risk for gum disease.
The best way to completely keep gum disease at bay is to follow these tips and see your dentist at least twice a year. This way, your dentist can find out sooner if you already have teeth or gum problems.