Periodontal diseases are infections of the gums, which gradually destroy the support of your natural teeth. Adults over 35 years of age lose more teeth to gum diseases, (periodontal disease) than from cavities. That is why knowing how to keep your gums healthy is so important.
Periodontal diseases can be accelerated by a number of different factors. However, the bacteria found in dental plaque mainly cause it. Dr. Jessica Stilley and Dr. Steven Lieber share six ways that you can keep your gums healthy and prevent gum disease. Some ways are twice a year, others are twice a day. Read on and think about in which areas you are doing well and which need improvement.
1. Twice a day: brush your gums, teeth and tongueThe best way to prevent cavities and periodontal disease is by good tooth brushing performed daily. Scrub your tongue also, as it can harbor bacteria. Your toothbrush should have soft bristles and fit in your mouth comfortably.
2. Once a day: floss between your teethPeriodontal disease usually appears between the teeth where your toothbrush cannot reach. Flossing daily is a very effective way to remove plaque from those surfaces. However, it is important to develop the proper technique. These instructions will help you, but it takes time and practice.
3. Twice a day: rinse with antiseptic mouthwashAccording to the ADA, "There are two types of mouthwash: cosmetic and therapeutic. Cosmetic mouthwash may temporarily control bad breath and leave behind a pleasant taste, but have no chemical or biological application beyond their temporary benefit. For example, if a product doesn’t kill bacteria associated with bad breath, then its benefit is considered to be solely cosmetic. Therapeutic mouthwash, by contrast, has active ingredients intended to help control or reduce conditions like bad breath, gingivitis, plaque, and tooth decay." Active ingredients that may be used in therapeutic mouthwash include: cetylpyridinium chloride; chlorhexidine; essential oils; fluoride; and peroxide.
4. Throughout the year: visit a dentist for professional maintenanceVisiting the dentist throughout the year is important because dentists can help spot dental health problems early on when treatment is likely to be simpler and more affordable. They also help prevent many problems from developing in the first place as cleanings remove plaque and tartar. Continuity of care is an essential part of any health plan and dental health is just as important. Your dentist may recommend these visits anywhere from 2-4 times per year depending on your needs.
5. Quit SmokingHopefully this one is something you have already done. Dr. Stilley adds, "Smoking weakens the body's immune system, making it harder to fight off a gum infection. And once you have gum damage, smoking also makes it harder for your gums to heal." In fact, tobacco smoking is recognized as the most important environmental risk factor in periodontitis. Tobacco use in any form—cigarettes, pipes, cigars, and chewing tobacco—raises your risk for gum disease.
6. Bonus PreventionDr. Lieber states that "We paired a few other ways to have healthy gums into what we refer to as bonus prevention. Other factors that can affect the health of your gums include stress, clenching and grinding teeth, and poor nutrition. These are preventable, but may require professional help in the way of stress management, and a lifestyle and diet change."
Prevention is key, but if you have any of the following signs of disease, do make an appointment as soon as possible: bleeding gums during or after brushing or flossing, red, swollen, or tender gums, persistent bad breath, loose or shifting teeth.