Healthy gums are critical to good dental health, as well as key to your overall physical wellbeing. Left untreated, gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, can lead to sore, bleeding gums and even tooth loss at more advanced stages. There’s also evidence that individuals with periodontal disease tend to be at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, dementia, and pregnancy complications. Luckily, in many cases, gum disease can be prevented by good dental habits.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Periodontal disease begins when a sticky film of bacteria known as plaque builds up under the gums and around your teeth at the gumline. While brushing and flossing can help, total plaque removal usually requires a visit to the dentist for a cleaning. If left alone, the plaque will eventually cause the gum tissues to swell. This inflammation, which is the body’s natural response to infection, is believed to be what actually causes periodontal disease and results in the higher risk for other diseases.
Smoking is bad for your gums and a major risk factor for periodontal disease. Diabetics, women and girls going through hormonal changes, and individuals suffering from certain illnesses like AIDs are also more susceptible to periodontal disease. Gum problems are sometimes a side effect of certain medications. It’s important to speak to your dentist about your smoking habits, as well as any health issues or prescribed medications so they can watch for any impact on your gums.
If you have bad breath that won’t go away or red swollen gums, you may have gingivitis, an early stage of gum disease. See a dentist immediately for a good cleaning. Other symptoms of gum disease include:
- Tender, bleeding gums
- Pain when chewing
- Loose or sensitive teeth
- Receding gums
How Can You Keep Your Gums Healthy?
Good dental hygiene as well as a healthy diet can help prevent gum disease. Here are five steps you can take to improve your gum health:
- Brush and floss your teeth – the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing at least once a day. When choosing a toothpaste, look for one that has the ADA seal. This seal, which is good for five years, signifies that the ADA has reviewed clinical studies and deemed the product safe and effective.
- Get regular dental cleanings – having your teeth cleaned by a professional hygienist or dentist is the only way to fully remove tartar and plaque buildup. The ADA recommends at least an annual cleaning, but if you have a history of gum disease or other issues your dentist may recommend more frequent visits.
- Eat a healthy diet – fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, legumes, foods rich in calcium, and high fiber foods are all good for strong teeth and healthy gums. Bone-fortifying calcium found in dairy products, some nuts, and certain vegetables help keep teeth strong. Crunchy fruits and vegetables and high fiber foods naturally keep your teeth cleaner when chewing them. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes also help suppress inflammation.
- Rinse with a therapeutic mouthwash – a therapeutic mouthwash, purchased over the counter or from your dentist, contains ingredients that aid in reducing tartar buildup, plaque, and gingivitis. These mouthwashes are different from those that primarily promote sweet breath and leave a pleasant taste in your mouth. A therapeutic mouthwash might contain chlorhexidine, fluoride, peroxide, or cetylpyridinium chloride. As with toothpaste, look for one with the ADA seal.
- Don’t smoke – according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smokers have twice the risk for periodontal disease compared to non-smokers. The more cigarettes smoked per day, the greater the risk. In addition, according to the CDC, smoking lowers the immune system and makes it harder for the body to fight gum disease.
Our Dental Care Team Can Help
If you have questions about gum disease or need to have your teeth cleaned, contact your Life Dental Group dentist. Life Dental Group is a network of affiliated dental offices, throughout Mississippi and Alabama, that provides top-quality dental care.