Most people know the importance of brushing and flossing their teeth. But they might neglect caring for another important part of their mouths: their gums.
Gums are tissues that anchor your teeth to your mouth. They also protect your teeth from shock and damage. But just as bacteria can cause your teeth to decay, they can also cause damage to your gums.
Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to protect your gums from damage and disease.
- Brush Your Gums
We say “brush your teeth” but we should really say “brush your teeth and gums.” You should give your gums and gumline a thorough brushing to remove bacteria and the food particles that attract bacteria. But it’s important not to harm your gums when you brush them.
Many people brush using a rough, back-and-forth motion, which can actually hurt the teeth and gums. A better way to brush is to gently wiggle your toothbrush in a circular motion. This motion is a more effective way to clean your gums and gumline.
An electric toothbrush mimics this brushing motion and is a better choice to protect your teeth and gums.
- Floss Gently
Flossing removes particles that hide in between the teeth and at the gumline. If you don’t remove them, they can cause damage to both your teeth and your gums.
Along with flossing between the teeth, make sure to reach the space in between each tooth and the gums. Curve the floss into a “C” shape to gently floss in the small pocket above the tooth.
If you haven’t flossed for a while, your gums might bleed. You can prevent bleeding by moving the floss slowly and gently. Don’t snap the floss into your gums. Ribbon floss is softer than nylon or plastic and is less likely to cause bleeding.
- Use Mouthwash
Mouthwash doesn’t just freshen your breath. It contains fluoride and antimicrobial agents that discourage plaque and tartar and prevent gum disease. Some mouthwashes are more powerful than others. Choose a therapeutic mouthwash that’s approved by the American Dental Association.
- Avoid Smoking and Chewing
Cigarettes and tobacco are a direct cause of gum disease. Using them can cause your immune system to decline, making it harder for your immune system to prevent gum infections. People who smoke frequently or who have smoked for a long time have a greater risk of gum disease. Seek out a program in your area that can give you the support you need to quit smoking or chewing.
- Eat Healthy
Foods high in sugar and starch encourage bacteria growth, leading to plaque and gum disease. Harmful foods include many items you might expect, such as soda, candy, pastries, chips, and French fries. They also include some foods you might not expect, such as pasta, rice, bread, cereal, and potatoes.
Eating nutritious foods supplies your body with vitamins that protect your gums from disease and decay. Eat vegetables and fruits, healthy fats like butter and olive oil, and healthy proteins like beans, chicken, and fish.
- Watch for Signs of Gum Disease
Gum disease is a potentially dangerous infection. When only your gums are infected, the disease is called gingivitis. When the infection spreads into your bone, it’s known as periodontitis.
You develop gum disease when bacteria start to eat at your teeth and gums, leaving plaque behind. When plaque stays on your teeth, it causes your gums to swell and become inflamed.
Look for symptoms of gum disease, such as:
- Swollen gums
- Receding gumline (your gums look smaller than they used to)
- Bleeding gums when you brush or floss
- Loose teeth
- Sensitive teeth
- Bad breath
If you notice any of these signs, set an appointment with your dentist. Your dentist will perform a deep cleaning on and under your gumline. He or she will scrape a hard buildup called tartar from your gums. If your teeth are loose, your dentist can smooth your tooth roots to help reattach them to the gums.
Your dentist might prescribe something to treat your symptoms, including an oral medicine, an antibiotic gel, or a slow-release medicinal gel.
If these treatments don’t work, your dentist might recommend surgery. Through gum graft surgery, your dentist removes tissue from your mouth and uses it to cover your tooth roots. Through flap surgery, your dentist lifts your gums to remove tartar from under your gum line.
- Get Regular Dental Cleanings
Twice-yearly dental cleanings play a crucial part in preventing gum disease. Dental hygienists use advanced cleaning techniques to remove plaque and tartar. Dentists also look closer at your mouth and gums to spot any signs of gum disease before it gets worse.
Follow these steps and keep your gums healthy and disease-free. If you’re due for a dental cleaning, call Schererville Family Dentistry to schedule an appointment.