September is National Gum Care Month, and we’re kicking off the celebration by sharing ways to improve gum health. Did you know that gum disease is one of the most prevalent dental problems in the United States? It’s true! In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half of all Americans aged 30 years and older have some form of periodontal disease. That’s a lot of people! In honor of National Gum Care Month, we want to provide some tips on how to keep your gums healthy.
What You Need to Know About Gum Disease
Gum disease is an infection of the gums and bones that support the teeth. There are two types of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease and is characterized by red, swollen, or bleeding gums. Gingivitis primarily affects the gingiva, or gum tissue. Periodontitis is the more advanced stage of gum disease and can result in tooth loss. This is because periodontitis also affects the bone supporting the teeth.
Symptoms of gum disease include:
- Red, swollen, or bleeding gums
- Gums that are tender or painful
- Bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth
- Loose or shifting teeth
- A change in the fit of retainers or dentures
Ways to Improve Gum Health
Fortunately, gum disease is preventable. Here are some tips for keeping your gums healthy or improving your gum health:
Brush Your Teeth Twice a Day
The first step in preventing gum disease is to brush your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes at a time. Brushing removes plaque, which is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on your teeth. Plaque is the main cause of gum disease, especially when it accumulates along the gum line. While brushing, be sure to use a soft-bristled toothbrush and gentle circular motions. Brushing too hard or using the wrong technique can actually cause your gums to recede, which can increase the risk of gum disease.
In addition to brushing, you should also floss daily. The best time to floss is before you brush your teeth at night. Flossing removes plaque and bacteria from between your teeth and under your gum line. Flossing before you brush your teeth at night is ideal because it allows the fluoride from the toothpaste to get into these areas. While flossing, be sure to be gentle and avoid smacking the floss against your gums. Smacking the floss against your gums can cause gum irritation and recession.
Mouthwash can also help remove plaque and bacteria from your mouth. It can also make it harder for future plaque to accumulate on the surface of your teeth. There are different types of mouthwash available. Look for a mouthwash that contains fluoride, as well as antibacterial and antiseptic properties. In some cases, your dentist may prescribe a special mouthwash to treat active cases of gum disease. When using mouthwash, swish the mouthwash around in your mouth for 30 seconds to a minute before spitting it out.
Use the Right Toothpaste
When choosing a toothpaste, look for one that contains fluoride. Fluoride is a mineral that helps strengthen tooth enamel and prevent plaque accumulation. You should also avoid toothpastes that are abrasive. Abrasive toothpastes can actually damage tooth enamel and irritate the gums, leading to gum recession. To choose the right toothpaste, look for the ADA Seal of Approval.
Regular Teeth Cleanings
Another way to prevent gum disease is to have regular teeth cleanings. The American Dental Association recommends having your teeth professionally cleaned at least once every six months, although some people can benefit from more frequent cleanings. During a teeth cleaning, your dentist or dental hygienist will remove plaque and tartar from your teeth. It is important to note that tartar can only be removed with special tools used for these cleanings. Your dentist or hygienist will also check for signs of gum disease and make recommendations on how to improve your oral care routine.
Smoking is a major risk factor for gum disease. Not only do the chemicals found in tobacco products increase plaque accumulation, but they also impair the mouth’s ability to heal itself. If you smoke, quitting is one of the best things you can do for your oral and overall health.
Staying hydrated is not just important for your overall health, but for your oral health as well. Water helps flush bacteria and plaque from your mouth. Drinking plenty of water also helps to maintain your saliva levels so that your mouth can naturally clean itself. Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day. In fact, drinking water instead of juices, sodas, or sports drinks can make a huge difference for your oral health.
Eating too much sugar or starch can increase your risk for cavities and gum disease. This is because sugars and starches are the primary food source of the bacteria responsible for tooth decay and gum disease. Try to limit sugary and starchy foods and drinks, such as candy, cookies, cake, and soda. Instead, try snacking on foods that are high in fiber, such as fruits and vegetables. And, as mentioned above, make water your primary beverage choice.
If you have diabetes, it is important to manage your blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels can lead to gum disease. This is because the increase in sugar provides more food for the bacteria that cause gum disease. In addition, high blood sugar levels make it harder for your gums to heal after an injury. Be sure to talk with your doctor about how to best manage your diabetes and notify your dentist about your diabetes so they can help you manage the increased risk of gum disease.
In this blog, we discussed gum disease, as well as ways to improve gum health. Remember, gum disease is preventable. By following these tips, you can help prevent gum disease and keep your gums healthy. National Gum Care Month is the perfect time to start making changes to improve your oral health. So what are you waiting for? Get started today!