Too many people think that good oral health starts and stops with their teeth. The truth is that taking good care of your gums is essential for overall dental health.
What is gum disease?
Gum disease, also known as gingivitis, is an infection in your gums. And while you may not think it’s such a serious issue, gum disease has been shown to increase your risk for diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis and even cancer.
If you let gingivitis develop, it can become periodontitis. This is when the infection is no longer contained to the gums and instead has travelled into the bone. This can lead to serious problems with your teeth, along with your general wellbeing.
Gum disease can present with a range of symptoms. Often the first sign is red, swollen gums. They may even bleed when you floss or brush. As the disease progresses, you may notice that your gums have started to recede, making your teeth look longer.
With your gums receding, your teeth may become more sensitive as the dentin of your teeth is now exposed. You’ll likely notice this sensation when you take a sip of cold water or eat ice cream.
Your teeth may even start to wiggle or shift. This is because the disease is affecting the bones that keep your teeth in place. If you’ve had procedures to straighten your smile, periodontitis can undo all this hard work.
So how do you keep your gums healthy and avoid gum disease?
- Brush regularly
Good oral healthcare starts with regular brushing. You should be brushing your teeth at least twice a day, if not after every meal. Brushing removes plaque from your teeth. If plaque is not removed, it can inflame your gums, causing gum disease. Additionally, plaque can eat through your tooth enamel, leading to cavities.
Of course, you need to make sure you’re brushing your teeth correctly to enjoy the full benefits. Use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and use a circular motion to gently brush your teeth. Don’t forget to do the interior surface as well.
You should aim to brush your teeth for two to three minutes at a time. It can help to set a timer to ensure you don’t rush this process.
For a complete clean, you need to floss as well as brush your teeth. Flossing removes any food or plaque stuck between your teeth.
With your dental floss taut, slip it between two teeth. You can then slowly move the floss backwards and forwards, as well as up and down, to remove plaque. Make sure you don’t rub the floss against your gums as this can damage them.
You’ll need to floss between every tooth, ideally at least once a day. Floss before you brush your teeth. If not, dislodged plaque may remain in your mouth and reduce the effectiveness of brushing and flossing.
- Use an antiseptic mouthwash
Since bacteria causes gum disease, using an antiseptic mouthwash is a good idea. Along with brushing and flossing, an antiseptic mouthwash will reduce the amount of harmful bacteria living in your mouth.
Use mouthwash twice a day and use it only after you’ve brushed. This way, the mouthwash can help get rid of any bacteria left after brushing your teeth, as well as adding a protective layer to your teeth. Check the instructions on the bottle for how much mouthwash to use.
- Stop smoking
The risks of smoking are well known, including increased risk of cancer and respiratory problems. However, you may not be aware that smoking also affects your gums.
Studies have shown that smoking affects cells in the gums and how they function. It can also irritate your gums, making them more prone to gum disease. Therefore, if you want your gums to be at their best, you need to quit smoking.
Stopping smoking will also improve your oral health in other ways. For instance, the chemicals in tobacco products can reduce saliva flow in your mouth. As saliva works to keep harmful bacteria away from your teeth, the less saliva the more likely your teeth are to be covered in plaque. Additionally, smoking can stain your teeth yellow, spoiling your smile.
- Eat well
Eating well is just as important for your teeth and gums as it is for your overall wellbeing. You want to eat foods that have plenty of vitamin C, omega-3s and collagen. These nutrients can help reduce gum inflammation. You can find them in foods like nuts, salmon, chicken, bone broth, capsicum and broccoli.
You should also aim to reduce your intake of sugary foods. Bad bacteria feeds on sugar, so eating sugary food can speed up gum disease and undo your hard work brushing and flossing.
- Regular dental check-ups
Even if you maintain good oral hygiene at home, you still need to regularly see the dentist. They can ensure that your oral health, including your gums, is good and help fix any problems. It’s also an opportunity to get a professional clean.
Brushing, flossing and using mouthwash is important but it can’t compete with a professional clean. You’ll be able to feel the difference when you get out of the chair. Getting a regular clean will also make it easier for you to maintain your oral health at home because you’re essentially starting with a clean slate.
If you’ve missed a check-up or two because of the COVID-19 pandemic, now is the time to book a dental check-up. Even a few missed appointments can mean your oral health suffers and you may even be experiencing the first symptoms of gum disease as a result.
Stick to the tips above and you’re sure to have a healthy mouth free of gum disease. Plus, your teeth will be sparkling, making for a better and brighter smile.