Are you in love with your gums? You should be. They provide the very foundation of your teeth and overall oral health. In fact, they play a surprising role in your health in general. Studies show that gum disease can increase your risk for diabetes, heart disease, and dementia.
What Causes Gum Disease?
The mouth is a vast and complex ecosystem of bacteria. Some are healthy and fight disease. Others do just the opposite. Pathogenic bacteria can cause an inflammation that destroys tissue. While it was previously thought that the bacteria damaged the gums, it’s actually the body’s white blood cells reacting to the bacteria through inflammation that damages the gums.
The degree of periodontal disease can vary, from a mild redness and swelling of the gums (gingivitis) to complete destruction of the tooth bone. More advanced cases can actually lead to tooth loss.
Are Your Gums Healthy?
Healthy gums are pink and firm. They don’t bleed. Gums that show signs of periodontal disease are red, swollen, tender or bleeding. People with gum disease may have bad breath or have a bitter taste in their mouth. Chewing may be painful.
The Importance of Flossing
Flossing once a day is an easy way to minimize your risk to gum disease. Flossing removes plaque and food that your toothbrush can’t. You should floss whenever’s convenient — in the morning, at night, after lunch, when you get home from school or work. It doesn’t matter when you floss, just that you do it regularly.
Have Regular Dental Checkups
Regular checkups and cleanings are important. First, they remove the plaque that builds up between the teeth and causes the inflammation that results in gum disease. Second, your Cincinnati dentist can spot problems before they become serious concerns. It always pays to be proactive with your oral health — especially when it comes to gum disease.
Brush Your Gums
We tell you to brush your teeth — but we really mean brush your teeth and gums. But you don’t have to scrub hard. Brush gently with a soft toothbrush. Rather than “scrubbing your chops,” you really should massage them in a circular motion. This removes plaque causing bacteria.
Rinse with Mouthwash or Salt Water
Mouthwash does more than just freshen your breath. It contains fluoride and antimicrobial agents that fight gum disease. If you have advanced gum disease, your dentist might prescribe you a more therapeutic mouthwash than you can get over-the-counter.
Avoid or Quit Smoking
Smoking tobacco (yes, even that wacky tobacky) is a direct cause of gum disease. The smoke from cigarettes as well as marijuana can inflame the gums and lead to periodontal disease. Quit smoking — switch to the patch if you absolutely need an alternative.
Eat a Healthy Diet
The bacteria that triggers the inflammation that causes gum disease feeds off sugars. Eat a diet lower in sugar. This means cutting back on soda, candy, and pastries. You should also eat less starchy foods like pasta, rice, cereal and potatoes.