National Gum Care Month: How Can You Keep Your Gums Healthy?
When it comes to good oral hygiene, teeth often get all the attention. However, gum care is equally important to keep your mouth and the rest of your body healthy. Learn a few specific tips to take care of your gums just in time for National Gum Care Month.
How to Keep Your Gums Healthy
Brushing doesn’t only clean your teeth—it also stimulates your gums. Just make sure you’re brushing your teeth correctly. Here’s what this involves:
Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle along the gum line.
Brush in short, quick strokes.
Brush all surfaces of the teeth, including the inside, outside, and chewing surfaces.
Avoid brushing too vigorously, which can irritate the gums.
Brush for two minutes at least twice a day.
Use the right toothpaste
You’ll find seemingly endless varieties of toothpaste on the oral care aisle at the grocery store. The defining characteristics of high-quality toothpaste include fluoride, tartar-fighting abilities, enamel protection, and safe, effective ingredients as demonstrated by the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance.
Besides these qualities, look for toothpaste with a pleasant taste and texture, along with other optional features, such as whitening and sensitive formula. Avoid toothpaste with sodium lauryl sulfate if you’re prone to canker sores, and steer clear of varieties that are overly abrasive.
Floss every day
According to a 2016 survey, only 30 percent of people floss daily. About 37 percent report occasional flossing, and 32 percent say they never floss. This trend is devastating for gum health! Flossing removes hard-to-reach food and plaque from between the teeth and along the gum line. Without removing this debris, tartar can form. This hard buildup of bacteria irritates your gums and can lead to gum disease.
Make flossing a daily habit. It doesn’t matter when you do it—in the morning, after lunch, in the evening, before or after brushing your teeth—just make sure you do it!
Swish with therapeutic mouthwash
While many mouthwash formulas are available, they all fit into two broad categories: cosmetic and therapeutic. Cosmetic rinses temporarily control bad breath and leave a pleasant taste in the mouth. However, they have no long-term chemical or biological effects.
By contrast, therapeutic mouthwash contains active components that effectively reduce plaque, kill germs that cause bad breath, fight tooth decay, and help prevent gingivitis. Look for these ingredients on a bottle of mouthwash to help you identify it as therapeutic:
Cetylpyridinium chloride to reduce bad breath
Essential oils (available over-the-counter) or chlorhexidine (available by prescription only) to control plaque and gingivitis
Fluoride to fight tooth decay
Peroxide to whitening teeth and prevent future stains
Visit the dentist regularly
Your dentist will assess the overall health of your mouth and check for gum disease. A professional cleaning then removes plaque you might have missed while brushing. Dark tartar stains on your teeth can only be removed with professional dental tools, including scrapers and ultrasonic devices.
With regular dentist visits, you can catch gum disease in its earliest stage, known as gingivitis. At this point, it’s possible to reverse the damage and prevent more serious periodontal disease from developing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies smoking as a significant cause of severe gum disease. Smoking weakens your body’s immune system, so if your gums become infected or damaged, it’s more difficult for them to heal. Your risk for gum disease doubles if you use tobacco in any form, and the risk increases the more and the longer you smoke.
Watch what you eat
Your diet can directly impact the health of your teeth and gums. Decrease harmful foods, such as soda, alcohol, candy, and starchy foods. Replace them with these mouth-healthy alternatives:
High-fiber fruits and veggies to help clean out your mouth
Black and green tea to reduce bacteria on your teeth (just remember to rinse afterward—tea stains teeth!)
Low-fat dairy products for their calcium content and ability to neutralize acids in your mouth
Food that naturally contains fluoride, such as some seafood and poultry products
Sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva flow
Symptoms of Poor Gum Care
While regular dentist visits help you stay informed about your gum health, it’s important to self-examine your mouth regularly for signs of disease. After all, gingivitis is usually pain-free, so it can be easy to miss. The symptoms to watch for include:
Red, swollen gums
Gums that bleed while brushing or flossing
Chronic bad breath
As gum disease progresses, pus may form at the gum line, and the teeth may start to loosen. Keep up with proper gum care to prevent it from reaching this point.
Other Risk Factors for Unhealthy Gums
Daily brushing and flossing, regularly visiting the dentist, and avoiding cigarettes all promote healthy gums. Still, other factors may increase your risk for gum disease, including:
Bruxism (grinding your teeth in your sleep)
Taking certain drugs, including birth control pills, antidepressants, and heart medication
Make Proper Gum Care a Priority
National Gum Care Month is a great time to reassess your oral health habits, but to prevent gum disease, you must be vigilant all year round. Dr. Ania can help with your gum care needs. We provide preventative cleanings as well as periodontal maintenance in the form of scaling and root planing.
Let us help you smile with confidence! Schedule your next appointment by contacting our Boulder dentist at (303) 872-9940 today.