When discussing dental hygiene, we tend to focus on our teeth and how to properly brush and floss them. However, it’s also important to discuss how best to take care of what holds them in place: your gums. Paying attention to your gum health will help you better identify any potential issues and solutions to get you back on track without extra time in the dentist’s chair.
Understanding Gum Disease
It goes without saying that properly brushing your teeth along with flossing is the best way to keep your teeth and gums healthy. In an article written by the University of Rochester Medical Center, brushing and flossing in the morning and at night helps keep your mouth free of bacteria and prevents excessive tartar buildup. Daily plaque that isn’t removed becomes tartar which is a breeding ground for more toxic bacteria that can lead to ongoing periodontal issues like gum disease.
Gingivitis will eventually progress to periodontitis if left untreated. Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease where gums become red and swollen with some bleeding, and it is still reversible by brushing and flossing regularly with mouthwash. The redness and swelling will go away on its own with proper dental hygiene. If gingivitis is not taken care of immediately, it can escalate to more serious levels of periodontitis that can cause your gums to recede. It also increases the risk for developing loose teeth or even permanent tooth loss.
Red flag symptoms of periodontal disease are:
- Ongoing bad breath that doesn’t go away
- Tender gums that become red or swollen
- Gums that start to recede
- Pain while chewing
- Loose or really sensitive teeth
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, especially if you are in pain, seek out a dentist immediately.
As mentioned earlier, the best way to prevent any form of gum disease is to clean your teeth regularly and floss. It is also recommended to see a dentist or a dental hygienist at least once a year so they can help you break down tartar in hard to reach areas. The University of Rochester Medical Center recommends using a soft bristled brush and toothpaste that contains fluoride. They also state (along with the American Dental Association) that it’s best to replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months. Your brush should also definitely be replaced after being sick with the flu or strep throat. Don’t forget to brush gently, because brushing too hard can irritate the gums and make it easier for bacteria to infect them.