How to Maintain Your Gum Health

When thinking about oral health, people tend to hyper-focus on their teeth. The health of your gums, however, is just as important.

Gingivitis and Gum Disease: Why Gum Health Is Essential to Your Well-Being

What Are Gingivitis and Gum Disease?

Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease (also called periodontal disease). They are caused by a bacterial infection of the gums that forms in the pockets that exist between the surface of the teeth and the gum tissue.

While gingivitis can be reversed, periodontal disease (more advanced stages of gingivitis) is not reversible.

The Risks of Gum Disease: How Periodontal Disease Harms the Health of Your Body

As bacteria from the mouth spread through the bloodstream, periodontal disease can cause inflammation throughout the body. Gum disease increases a person's risk for a variety of systemic health problems including:

  • Respiratory infections
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Dimensia
  • Certain cancers
  • Reproductive health problems

Gum Disease Causes and Risk Factors: Who Is at the Greatest Risk of Developing Gum Disease?

Gum disease can develop as a result of poor oral hygiene that allows plaque and tartar (calculus) to accumulate on the surfaces of the teeth, pushing the gums away from the teeth. This creates large pockets where harmful bacteria thrive.

Other factors can also increase your risk of developing periodontal disease, including:

  • Bruxism (grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw)
  • Stress
  • Obesity
  • Poor nutrition
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Certain medications (some antidepressants, heart medications, and oral contraceptives)
  • Age
  • Genetics

How to Keep Your Gums Healthy: 10 Tips to Improve Gum Health

When it comes to your health, of course, genetics always plays a role. However, there are things you can do to prevent gingivitis and gum disease. So, be proactive with the following tips and keep your gums healthy - no matter what your ancestors' oral health was like.

1. Visit the Dentist for a Teeth Cleaning

Healthy adults and children should visit the dentist every six months for a teeth cleaning and examination. If you have already developed signs of gingivitis or gum disease, then more frequent visits might be required to monitor the issue and keep your gum health in check.

2. Use Gum-Friendly Brushing Techniques

Brushing isn't just about your teeth; it also helps promote gum health by cleaning the gums and in the pockets between your teeth and gums.

Be sure to use a soft-bristled brush and a gentle touch when you are brushing so as not to damage your gums which can cause inflammation and recession. Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle for optimal cleaning along the gum line.

3. Don't Skip the Floss

Flossing also helps to promote gum health by removing plaque and tartar from between your teeth. When flossing, hold the floss in a way that creates a "U" shape that hugs the tooth. Pull it in either direction and gently move the floss up and down the side of the tooth, being sure to clean either side of your interdental gingiva (the little triangle shape of gum tissue between your teeth).

4. Select an Effective Toothpaste

To help promote gum health, look for a toothpaste specifically formulated for healthy gums. Any toothpaste that contains fluoride will help to support healthy gums. Just be sure that yours has been approved by the American Dental Association (ADA).

5. Let Your Toothpaste Do Its Job

Lots of people prefer to rinse out their mouths with water immediately after brushing. Rinsing, however, doesn't allow the fluoride in your toothpaste to do its job and remineralize your teeth. Instead of rinsing with water, spit out excess toothpaste foam and let the residue sit on your teeth for at least 30 minutes before rinsing, drinking, or eating.

6. Improve Oral Health With Mouthwash

Using mouthwash in your oral hygiene routine can help prevent gum disease, keep bacterial growth in check, and slow the progression of gum disease. Select an alcohol-free, antibacterial variety and follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper use.

7. Step up Your Flossing With a Water Flosser

Old-fashioned dental floss is great, but a water flosser is better. Water flossers shoot high-powered streams of water between your teeth and down into the gum line, flushing out bacteria, plaque, and other debris. Water flossers are good for everyone, but we especially recommend them for patients with signs of gingivitis and gum disease.

8. Eat a Healthy Diet

A healthy diet keeps your whole body healthy, helping to prevent systemic diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes that can increase your risk of periodontal disease. Additionally, proper nutrition helps decrease inflammation and promote healthy gums and teeth.

9. Stay Physically Fit

Like eating right, staying fit is important for your oral health because it keeps your body generally healthier and stronger, strengthening your immune system and keeping your gums in better shape.

10. Know the Signs and Symptoms of Gingivitis and Gum Disease

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of gingivitis and gum disease can help you better monitor your own health. While you should visit the dentist regularly, schedule an appointment right away if you notice any of the following:

  • Red, swollen, or bleeding gums
  • Tender or painful gums
  • Gum recession
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Pus in the gums or in between teeth
  • Loose permanent teeth

Oral Cancer Risks: Factors That Are in Your Control

Although it is not as common as gingivitis and gum disease, another gum-health concern is oral cancer. While some risk factors for cancer are not in your control. There are some risk factors for oral cancer that you can control. These include limiting alcohol intake and exposure (limiting drinking and using alcohol-free mouthwash), not using tobacco of any kind (including vaping), and wearing sunscreen.

Preventive Dentistry and Gum Care in Bloomington, IN

At Todd Whitlock Dentistry, we are here to help our patients keep their teeth and gums healthy with a focus on preventative care. We also provide specialized services and treatments designed to promote gum health, reverse gingivitis, and slow the progression of periodontal disease. To learn more about how to keep your gums healthy or to request an appointment, we welcome you to contact our dental office in Bloomington, IN today.