If you’re a human being with teeth, it’s important to concern yourself with preventing gum disease. Merely having gums puts you at risk for gum disease, which affects a whopping 75 to 95 percent of adults.
Otherwise known as inflammation and/or infection of the gums, gum disease can manifest in a couple of ways. General symptoms of gum disease include persistent bad breath, swollen, tender, or bleeding gums, pain when chewing, loose teeth, tooth sensitivity (e.g. to hot or cold foods), and/or a receding gum line. Gingivitis is a milder form of gum disease characterized by inflamed gums and bad breath, while periodontitis is a more advanced form of gum disease characterized by the loss of gum tissue and infection of the bone that holds teeth in place. If left unchecked, gum disease can cause a number of complications, the most severe of which is tooth loss.
Even though gum disease is remarkably common, that doesn’t mean we should all throw up our hands and wait for it to kick in. Instead, there are several simple strategies you can adopt to reduce your risk of becoming a statistic.
Proper tooth brushing is important for a number of reasons, including helping to prevent cavities and reducing the risk of gum disease. You can find our detailed guidelines for brushing properly here. The takeaway is that it starts with choosing the right brush, using the right technique (including brushing gently near the gum line), and committing to brushing at least twice a day—every day—for two minutes at a time.
As with brushing, flossing is a critical factor in preserving oral health overall as well as combatting gum disease. That’s because flossing helps remove plaque, bacteria, and food particles near the gum line, which reduces the risk of inflammation and infection. It’s just one of the many reasons why you should floss every single day.
More and more research is finding a connection between the foods we eat and our oral health. A diet low in nutrients and high in sugar and starchy foods is more likely to lead to oral health problems than one that’s packed with nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and lean proteins. Not sure where to start when it comes to eating healthier? Check out this list of foods that are good for oral health.
As if you needed another reason to quit: Smoking or the use of chewing tobacco is a major risk factor for gum disease and other oral health issues. That’s because smoking can reduce blood flow to the gums, which deprives them of nutrients and makes them more vulnerable to infection; additionally, nicotine limits cell’s ability to produce healthy connective tissue. Going cold turkey is great way to reduce the risk of inflammation and infection in your gums (and you’ll be doing the rest of your body a favor, too).
It’s important to visit your dentist at least every six months for a professional cleaning. Not only can this improve your oral hygiene, thereby reducing the risk of gum disease, but it will also give your dentist a chance to identify any signs of gum disease and treat it before it progresses to a more serious form. If you notice any signs of gum disease in between your regular visits, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with your dentist right away.
With proper oral care, a healthy diet, and regular consultations with a professional, you’ll increase your odds of avoiding gum disease and its complications.