5 Things You Need to Know for Happy, Healthy Gums
Many of us can’t help but obsess about keeping our teeth bright, pearly white and perfectly straight. There is a seemingly endless array of whitening treatments from strips to chemical applications and specialty toothpaste, not to mention the small fortune we spend on braces and retainers to tidy up our teeth. With all the emphasis put on taking care of our teeth, it’s easy to lose sight of just how important it is to make sure our gums stay clean and healthy.
Your gums are an important part of your dental health and your teeth rely on them to stay orderly and pretty. Keeping your gums in shape is critical to maintaining the health of your teeth and mouth as a whole.
Here are a few important things to know about preserving your gums:
Gum disease is caused by bacteria found in plaque, a sticky film made of bacteria, mucus and food that forms on the teeth. If it’s not cleaned off, it can cause your gums and bone to recede, become inflamed and expose your teeth, making them more vulnerable to bacteria.
Symptoms of gum disease to look out for include: bad breath even after brushing, red, swollen, tender gums, receding gums, painful chewing and loose or sensitive teeth.
Preventing gum disease starts with watching what you eat. Some foods are more dangerous to your gums than others. Salty foods, for example, when eaten in excess cause inflammation throughout the body which causes the gums to swell and bleed. If this happens too often, it can become a chronic issue over time, so be wary of over-indulging in meals and snacks that are high in sodium. Instead, reach for fruits and vegetables that are high in water, such as pears, melons and cucumbers. These foods are also high in fiber which helps balance their sugar content and, consequently, keep your teeth clean.
Perhaps the most important way to protect your gums is to brush and floss twice a day, right when you wake up and as the last thing you do before bed. When you don’t brush regularly and/or thoroughly, the bacteria that lives in your mouth becomes more aggressive and causes your gums to recede. If you can see the yellowish roots of your teeth, that’s a clear indicator that there has been bone loss and consequently your gums have receded. Should you notice this happening, consult your dentist right away.
Despite our best efforts, it’s difficult to keep our teeth and gums completely free of plaque and tartar. That’s why we need to visit our dentists a couple times each year for a professional cleaning. If we don’t allow dentists to clean the gunk out of our mouth, we put ourselves at risk of gum disease. Gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease, is still reversible by undergoing a professional cleaning from a dentist and continuing to floss and brush at home. The preventative care provided by dentists is one of the best ways to ensure your teeth and gums stay healthy for years to come.
Saliva plays a critical role in keeping your gums healthy by helping break down the plaque-forming food particles that stick around the teeth and gums. Suffering from a chronically dry mouth increases the risk of cavities and gum disease because it reduces your body’s ability to rid itself of plaque and fight off dangerous bacteria.
One of the most common causes of dry mouth is medication, with antihistamines, decongestants, painkillers, and antidepressants all among the types of drugs that can cause it. If you’ve been taking one or more of these medications and have been experiencing persistent dry mouth, try chewing sugar-free gum and sipping water throughout the day to keep the saliva flowing. If the problem persists, talk to your dentist about other options that may work for you.
At the end of the day, it’s easy to get distracted by the chompers that sit front and center in our smile. From Hollywood to the orthodontist, pristine teeth are highly valued in our culture and are a big part of making a first impression. That doesn’t mean we can forget about our gums, especially since they help keep our teeth straight and healthy. Check on them daily to make sure there isn’t any redness or soreness and, if you think there might be an issue, be sure to talk to your dentist right away.
Dr. Nathan Brooks, DDS, lives out his lifelong dream as the owner of Anderson Dental Care in Cincinnati, Ohio. He leads a welcoming, family-focused clinic that offers comprehensive general and cosmetic dental care. With a Master’s in Biology from Purdue University and a Doctorate of Dental Surgery from Indiana University, he continues to pursue dentistry education to better serve and care for patients. On weekends, you’ll find Dr. Brooks, his wife, and their children adventuring outdoors or playing together indoors, depending on the season!