Practicing good oral hygiene is the most important action that a person can take to prevent and treat gum disease. Most people tend to overlook their gums when it comes to oral health and focus on getting a bright, white smile instead. However, healthy teeth require healthy gums.
Gum disease can lead to tooth loss. Fortunately, a person can take many steps to prevent and even reverse gum disease. These include:
- brushing the teeth properly
- choosing the right toothpaste
- flossing daily
- taking care when rinsing out the mouth
- using mouthwash
- having regular dental checkups
- stopping smoking
This article examines how these step can help keep the gums healthy. We also provide diet tips for healthy gums and explain how to spot the signs of gum disease.
Adopting the following habits will help a person care for their teeth and gums properly, which, in turn, will help prevent gum disease.
1. Brush the teeth properly
Brushing the teeth properly is key to having a healthy mouth and gums. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommend that people follow the guidelines below:
- Brush at least twice a day using a soft-bristle toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
- Replace the toothbrush every 3 to 4 months, or sooner if the bristles begin to fray.
- Brush the teeth at a 45-degree angle to the gums.
- Move the toothbrush in short strokes.
- Press gently.
- Clean the insides of the front teeth by turning the brush vertically and making several short strokes along each tooth.
2. Choose the right toothpaste
The toothpaste aisle in most stores will contain many varieties of toothpaste, from whitening products to formulas containing baking soda.
When choosing toothpaste, a person should ensure that it contains fluoride and has the ADA seal of approval on the packaging.
3. Floss daily
Many people neglect daily flossing, but the ADA recognize this habit as an important part of oral care.
Flossing removes food and plaque from between the teeth and gums. If the food and plaque remain in these areas, this can lead to tartar, which is a hard buildup of bacteria that only a dentist can remove. Tartar can lead to gum disease.
4. Rinse your mouth out with care
Many people rinse their mouth out after brushing their teeth. However, oral hygiene practices should complement the effectiveness of fluoride products, such as toothpaste.
When a person washes their mouth out with water after brushing their teeth with fluoride toothpaste, they wash away the fluoride.
Conversely, when a person rinses their mouth out after eating, they may rinse away food and bacteria that can lead to plaque and tartar.
5. Use mouthwash
According to the ADA, there are two types of mouthwash: therapeutic and cosmetic. Both are available over the counter.
A therapeutic mouthwash can help:
- prevent gum disease
- reduce the speed at which tartar builds up
- reduce the amount of plaque on the teeth
- remove food particles from the mouth
However, people should not use mouthwash as a replacement for brushing and flossing.
A person should look for the ADA seal. This seal indicates that the manufacturer has demonstrated enough evidence to support the product's safety and effectiveness.
The ADA state that children under the age of 6 years should not use mouthwash.
6. Get regular dental checkups
Dental checkups typically include a professional cleaning of the mouth. Professional cleaning is the only way to remove tartar from the teeth. Professional cleaning can also help eliminate the plaque that a person may have missed when brushing their teeth.
With regular visits, a dentist can help identify the early signs of gum disease and gingivitis, a condition in which the gums become inflamed. Early detection can help prevent more severe problems from occurring.
7. Stop smoking
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking makes a person more susceptible to gum disease because it weakens the immune system.
The CDC recommend quitting smoking immediately to help reduce the risk of developing gum disease. The use of other tobacco products can also increase a person's risk.
What a person eats can directly affect the health of their teeth and gums. Different foods can have a positive or negative impact on gum health.
Some of the foods that people should incorporate into their diet include:
- high-fiber fruits and vegetables, as these can help clean out the mouth
- black and green teas, which help reduce bacteria
- dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, as these foods help increase saliva production
- foods that contain fluoride, which include water and some poultry and seafood products
- sugar-free gum, as chewing it will increase saliva production
It is best to avoid the following foods and beverages:
- carbonated soft drinks that contain phosphoric and citric acids as well as sugar
- alcohol, as it can dry out the mouth
- sticky candies and sweets that stay in the mouth for a while
- starchy foods that can become stuck in the teeth
People should be aware of the signs and symptoms of gum disease. Most gum disease starts with mild symptoms, but it can progress over time.
Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease. People with gingivitis may have red, swollen gums that bleed easily. They may also have chronic bad breath.
Most people with gingivitis do not experience any pain or tooth loosening. A person can treat and reverse gingivitis with good oral hygiene and dental care.
Over time, untreated gingivitis can lead to periodontitis. Periodontitis occurs when plaque and tartar spread below the gumline.
The bacteria in the plaque irritate the gums and trigger an inflammatory response, causing the body to destroy the tissues and bone that support the teeth.
As periodontitis progresses, this damage worsens, leading to deepening pockets of space between the teeth and the connective tissues.
Periodontitis does not always cause symptoms initially. However, people may notice the following symptoms as the disease progresses:
- receding gums, which can make the teeth appear longer
- loose teeth
- pus between the teeth or at the gumline
- chronic bad breath
- bleeding gums
- red, puffy gums
Several risk factors can increase a person's chances of getting gum disease. Some of these, such as aging, a person cannot control or avoid.
According to the American Academy of Periodontology, the following are some of the most common risk factors for developing gum disease:
- poor nutrition and obesity
- teeth grinding or clenching
- smoking and tobacco use
- age, with older adults more likely to develop gum disease
- using certain medications, such as antidepressants, oral contraceptives, and some heart medications
A person should see their dentist if they experience bleeding or pain in their gums that lasts for longer than a week. Swollen and red gums that bleed easily are a symptom of gum disease.
Some other signs and symptoms to look for include:
- gums that pull back from the teeth
- gums that bleed easily
- swollen, red gums
- sensitive teeth
- teeth that feel loose in the mouth
- pain while chewing
- dentures no longer fitting correctly
Gum disease can lead to tooth loss. However, most people can prevent gum disease by adopting proper oral hygiene practices.
Steps to take include brushing the teeth regularly with fluoride toothpaste, flossing, and taking care when rinsing out the mouth. ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste is available to purchase online.
Simple at-home oral care and dental checkups can help prevent and reverse gum disease. If a person begins to show any of the signs of gum disease, such as pain in the gums that lasts for longer than a week, they should see their dentist.