8 Ways to Keep Your Gums Healthy
You brush your teeth to clean your mouth and maintain a healthy, bright smile. But did you know that the health of your gums plays a pivotal role in maintaining a healthy and beautiful smile? Neglecting proper gum care can lead to a host of oral issues ranging from gingivitis to tooth loss, which can affect the look and feel of your entire mouth.
What is gum disease?
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, inflammation and infection of the gums caused by the bacteria found in plaque and tartar. Plaque is a sticky film that forms on your teeth. This film develops when food particles, mucus and bacteria build up over your teeth.
Failing to brush off plaque causes it to harden, leading to tartar, which can only be removed by a dentist or dental hygienist. These bacteria cause inflammation of the gums, known as gingivitis. Practising good oral hygiene is the most important action you can take to prevent and treat gum disease.
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Signs and symptoms of unhealthy gums
To stay on top of your gum health, you should be aware of the early signs and symptoms of gum disease to be able to treat it before it becomes more advanced. The symptoms include:
- Red, puffy, sore gums that bleed easily
- Chronic bad breath
- Pain when chewing
- Receding gums that make your teeth look longer
- Loose (mobile) teeth
- Sensitive teeth
Risk factors to avoid
Here are some of the factors that put you more at risk of developing periodontal disease
- Smoking or chewing tobacco
- Poor nutrition and obesity
- Teeth grinding
What to do to keep gums healthy
As stated above, the leading cause of periodontal disease and tooth loss in adults is bacterial plaque build-up. Fortunately, gum disease is preventable with these simple 5-minute at-home healthy gum care regimens. These steps also help to protect teeth from decay.
Use fluoride toothpaste
When choosing toothpaste, make sure it contains fluoride (1450ppm for adults).
Brush twice a day
Brush your teeth twice each day, for two minutes each time, preferably in the morning and before you go to bed. If you are using a battery or electric-powered toothbrush, be sure to read and follow the package instructions before brushing your teeth. If you are using a manual toothbrush, follow these proper tooth brushing steps:
Good brush: Invest in a quality medium-bristled brush to protect your gums from bruising while at the same time effectively removing plaque.
Short strokes: Move your brush in a gentle circular motion, making sure to brush both the front and back of your teeth and gums and the chewing surfaces of your teeth. To brush behind your front teeth, use the brush’s tip on the top and bottom of your teeth
Proper angle: Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle toward the gum line
Tongue attention: Lightly brush your tongue to remove any bacteria lingering there
Proper brush storage: Do not store your brush in a closed container, as this can encourage the growth of harmful microorganisms
Floss or use an interdental product to remove any plaque or food particles stuck between your teeth and under your gums before it can harden into tartar. To floss correctly:
- Use a long piece of floss
- Tightly hold the floss between your thumbs and forefingers
- Place it between your teeth, and gently slide it up and down
- When it reaches your gum line, curve it around 1 tooth. Lightly rub the side of the tooth, moving the floss up and down and making sure to slide it below the gumline
- Repeat these steps on all your teeth. Make sure to floss the backside of your back teeth as well
Use a therapeutic mouthwash
Rinse your mouth with an antibacterial mouthwash that is specifically designed to prevent plaque build-up. A therapeutic mouthwash will help:
- Prevent gum disease
- Reduce the amount of plaque on your teeth
- Reduce the speed at which tartar builds up
- Remove food particles from your mouth
Note, however, that you should never replace brushing and flossing with mouthwash.
Smoking cigarettes and other tobacco products weaken your immune system, making you susceptible to gum disease and other oral issues. As such, it is recommended to quit smoking to help reduce this risk.
Watch what you eat
The food you eat plays a significant role in the health of your gums. To protect your gums and teeth, avoid eating sticky foods and sweets. If you do eat sweets, make sure to rinse your mouth with water afterwards, or brush your teeth if you can. But instead of these, have plenty of calcium-rich foods like milk, yoghurt and cheese. Calcium is very important to maintain the integrity of your jaw bone, which is the supporting structure for your teeth.
Get regular professional dental cleanings
While daily oral care is vital for healthy gums, you need to visit your dentist regularly for dental checkups. This is because no matter how well and consistently you brush your teeth, plaque and tartar can still build-up, causing gum problems.
During these visits, your dentist will provide you with a professional cleaning to remove every bit of plaque and tartar that might have slipped your attention. Also, regular dental visits allow the dentist to identify early signs of gum disease and gingivitis, making it easier for them to treat and prevent more serious oral health problems from occurring.
Straighten crooked teeth with braces
Crooked teeth make it harder for you to brush plaque and tartar off your teeth, increasing your risk for gum disease. To prevent that, straighten your teeth orthodontically.
When to see a dentist
You should see a dentist if you experience pain and bleeding in your gums that lasts longer than a week. Other signs that you need to see a dentist include:
- Sensitive teeth
- Swollen red gums
- Gums that bleed easily
- Pain while chewing
- Dentures no longer fitting properly
- Teeth that feel loose
If you plan on keeping your natural teeth for a lifetime, you should start with giving your gums the care they need. Most importantly, adopt a vigorous personal oral care routine, regularly see your dentist, use the right products and eat a healthy diet to maintain healthy gums.
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