When you think about dental health care, focusing on cleaning your teeth is easy. But there’s more to a healthy smile than your teeth! Your gums are a large part of your overall health, too.
Your gums support your teeth and they provide the foundation for healthy tooth roots. They provide a protective barrier between harmful bacteria that can accumulate in the mouth and our bloodstream. Without this barrier, internal inflammation can lead to serious diseases like cancer, diabetes, and others.
Gum disease is often painless, so you may not even know there is a problem. For this reason, twice-yearly dental exams are critical to our smiles, our dental health, and our overall health.
Let’s explore daily habits to improve gum health, as well as some warning signs of gum disease, also called gingivitis or periodontal disease.
Early Warning Signs of Gum Disease
The CDC reports that 47.2% of adults aged 30 years and older have some form of periodontal disease. Even more worrisome is the fact that this disease increases as we age, with 70% of those 65 years and older having the disease. In fact, periodontal disease is one of the two biggest threats to dental health.
Periodontal diseases occur when dental infections lead to inflammation of the gums and bones around the teeth. There are two levels of periodontal disease:
- Gingivitis: The early stage when the gums become swollen and may bleed.
- Periodontitis: The gums pull away from the teeth, bones around the teeth deteriorate, and teeth may fall out.
If you are neglectful in the care of your teeth, bacteria remain on the teeth and form plaque. If you don’t adhere to a schedule of dental exams and cleanings, bacteria stay on the teeth and plaque hardens and forms tartar (also called calculus). Tartar spreads below the gum line and the teeth–and your health–suffer.
The warning signs of gum disease include:
- Bad breath
- Bad taste in the mouth
- Red or swollen gums
- Tender or bleeding gums
- Painful chewing
- Loose teeth
- Sensitive teeth
- Gums pulled away from your teeth
- A change in how the teeth fit together when you bite down
So, it’s logical to ask how to keep gums healthy. There are some specific actions you can take to protect the health of your gums. Read on for five tips to improve gum health that you can practice daily!
5 Effective Ways to Improve Gum Health & Keep Them Healthy:
#1 – Control Sugar in Your Diet
Sugar and tooth decay are directly connected. After you eat or drink sugary foods or liquids, the sugar combines with saliva and bacteria in your mouth. If you aren’t brushing and flossing regularly, especially after consuming sugar, plaque is formed from the bacteria. This plaque eats away at the enamel of your teeth, resulting in cavities (holes in the teeth). Your gums can also become infected.
Check food labels closely. Many foods that you may think are healthy actually contain a lot of sugar. Yogurt and sports drinks are two good examples of this. Limiting the amount of sugar you take in every day will help protect your teeth and your gums.
#2 – Schedule Dental Exams and Cleanings Every 6 Months
Tartar buildup from plaque is nearly impossible for you to remove from your teeth. Your dental hygienist must remove it, as well as any plaque that hasn’t developed into tartar yet. During a teeth cleaning, the hygienist will gently scrape the plaque and tartar away and polish your teeth to a sparkle!
Your dentist must perform an oral exam to identify any potential issues before they become a threat to your gums. Don’t avoid seeing your dentist. If you are fearful of dentists, let them know of your concerns. You aren’t alone in this fear and your dentist can help you.
#3 – Brush Teeth Twice Daily
It’s the foundation of your oral health routine: Brushing your teeth twice a day. The American Dental Association supports this practice and also suggests that you use fluoride toothpaste when you brush. Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally and has many oral health benefits. This is why many towns and cities add it to their water supplies to help the population reduce cavities.
Brush for two minutes minimum each time you brush and make sure you spend equal time on all four quadrants of your mouth. An electric toothbrush can help ensure you do this since it usually operates on a timer. Brush both the outer and inner surfaces, as well as the chewing surfaces of the teeth. Hold the bristles near the gum line at about a 45-degree angle and use soft strokes over the teeth and gums to make sure you cover your entire mouth.
You may be tempted to skip brushing some days, but those with the healthiest smiles believe in preventive care.
#4 – Floss Teeth Once a Day
After you brush your teeth, floss once a day, too. This removes the plaque in the areas your toothbrush doesn’t reach and prevents cavities from forming between the teeth and the gum line. Flossing will make your dental exams and cleanings easier and prevent surprises from arising during the exam.
Flossing is often difficult between crooked or crowded teeth. Make sure to run the floss up and down the surface of the tooth, going down to the gum line and then up between the teeth. Form the letter “C” with the floss as you apply pressure with your fingers away from the gum, letting it curve around the side of the tooth.
#5 – Use Mouth Rinse Once a Day
After brushing and flossing, use a fluoride mouthwash. This will strengthen the tooth enamel and wash away residual plaque or food particles left behind. Mouthwash can kill bacteria in your mouth and significantly help prevent gum disease. Research studies show that mouthwash can eliminate bacteria that cause gingivitis and can also improve your oral health.
Mouthwash can also be used when brushing isn’t possible. Some mouthwashes whiten teeth and most will eliminate bad breath.
Be Proactive in Improving Gum Health and Preventing Disease
Gum disease affects nearly half of all people aged 30 and older while the numbers climb to 70% for those over 65. Many people suffer from gum disease before they realize it since it is painless in its earlier stages. The disease, however, is reversible and preventable. By adhering to a consistent daily oral hygiene routine, you can improve your gum health and protect your gums and teeth from decay and bone loss.
Wilmington Dental Associates is ready to partner with you in protecting your teeth and maintaining healthy gums. As a top local dentist in Wilmington, DE, we offer a comprehensive range of dental services to meet the needs of all ages, including periodontal disease therapy when needed.
We look forward to helping you keep your teeth and gums as clean and healthy as possible.
Contact us for an appointment and let’s get started today!