Tips to Prevent Gum Disease
Gum disease – medically known as periodontitis – affects millions of U.S. adults although in many cases it’s preventable with good oral hygiene backed by professional preventive measures.
A regular routine of brushing and flossing is crucial for gum health, and avoiding or cutting back on sugary drinks and foods can also reduce the risk of gum disease, as can regular dental exams and professional cleanings.
Before we look in detail at these measures, it may help you to prevent gum disease if you first understand why your gums are susceptible to infection.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Gum disease is typically caused by poor oral hygiene. It results from a build-up of bacteria-ridden plaque and tartar on and between teeth. This can cause tooth loss and other serious oral health problems and spread to other areas of the body, including vital organs.
The first stage of gum disease is gingivitis – inflammation caused by the body’s reaction to harmful bacteria attacking gum tissue. This may lead to bleeding or swollen gums but the problem can go unnoticed because often no symptoms are initially apparent.
Without treatment, gingivitis can progress to even more serious complications:
- Early periodontal disease – the gums start to recede.
- Moderate periodontitis – teeth become loose.
- Advanced periodontal disease – widespread destruction of gum and jaw bone tissue.
Because the root of all these issues is accumulation of dangerous oral bacteria, good dental hygiene is key to preventing gum disease.
Brushing and Flossing to Prevent Gum Disease
Stopping plaque in its tracks gives you a powerful weapon in the battle against gum disease, and this can be achieved by brushing and flossing regularly.
After brushing and flossing, an antibacterial mouth rinse will give your gums added protection. Dr. Chu a pediatric dentist in Huntington Beach, CA says that getting these habits of brushing and flossing regularly from a young age great helps prevent gum disease.
Best Brushing Techniques
Here are some tips for optimal brushing to combat gum disease:
- Use a soft-bristled brush – the most comfortable option that avoids damage to gums and tooth enamel.
- Brush your teeth and tongue twice a day – in the morning and at bedtime – and don’t forget your gum line, with the brush head angled at 45 degrees toward the gum.
- Use a fluoride, antibacterial toothpaste – to kill germs as well as strengthen your teeth.
Make sure you:
- Brush the front of each tooth.
- Brush the back of each tooth.
- Brush the biting surface of each tooth.
After brushing, rinse your brush and let it dry naturally in a toothbrush holder or a glass. This minimizes the risk of bacterial growth.
Replace your toothbrush or electric toothbrush head every three months or as soon as the bristles show signs of fraying.
Best Flossing Techniques
Flossing at least once a day removes food debris and plaque between teeth and along the gum line that your toothbrush can’t reach.
It’s just as important as brushing and can get rid of up to 80 per cent of plaque, although two in 10 people never floss, according to the American Dental Association (ADA).
It’s advisable to wash your hands before and after flossing to avoid transfer of bacteria.
Our tips for flossing to prevent gum disease:
- Break off a sufficient length of floss from the dispenser – about 18 inches – so you have a clean section as you move from tooth to tooth.
- Wrap one end of the floss around the middle finger of one hand.
- Wind the other end around the middle finger of the other hand.
- Leave three to four inches between each hand.
- Use forefinger and thumb to guide the floss between adjacent teeth.
- Gently glide the floss between your teeth without snapping it.
- Work the floss around the side of the tooth and into the gum line.
- Consider using a floss holder, which can make the process easier.
It’s worth noting that many dental organizations – including the ADA and the Oral Health Foundation – recommend flossing BEFORE brushing, on the grounds that this sequence avoids the risk of unwittingly trapping food particles and plaque in your gums.
Dental Exams and Cleanings to Prevent Gum disease
While good oral hygiene at home will go a long way toward preventing gum disease, it’s essential to support this with professional preventive dental care.
- Regular dental exams, plus an annual in-depth periodontal assessment.
- Regular professional teeth cleanings.
General dental check-ups every six months allow your dentist to spot signs of plaque and tartar accumulation and check for deep spaces between teeth and gums (periodontal pockets) – all potential signs of gum disease.
Dental exams typically incorporate a professional cleaning that will eliminate bacteria and plaque which can build up even if you brush and floss regularly. A deep cleaning is also the only way to get rid of plaque that has calcified into the harder substance of tartar.
The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) advises all adults to get an annual comprehensive periodontal evaluation (CPE) to detect any signs of gum infections.
Six-monthly check-ups and an annual periodontal assessment enable early treatment entailing minimally invasive procedures such as scaling and root planing – avoiding the risk of more serious issues requiring gum surgery.
Healthy Eating to Prevent Gum Disease
While foods and drinks with heavy starch and sugar content heighten the risk of periodontitis, a healthy diet will give you nutrients essential to prevent gum disease.
You can maintain a gum-friendly, well-balanced diet by eating a variety of nutritious foods from the five main food groups: meat/poultry, grain, dairy, fruits, and vegetables.
Try to include fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins A and C in your diet and antioxidants that strengthen your ability to ward off the bacteria that cause inflammation and gum disease.
Foods and drinks particularly beneficial in preventing gum disease include:
- Dairy products – such as milk, yogurt and cheese, which contain proteins that attack acids that can damage your gums.
- Crunchy vegetables that dislodge food debris from the gum line and between your teeth.
- Green and black teas, which contain antioxidant compounds that help to prevent plaque sticking to your teeth.
Need More Help on Preventing Gum Disease?
According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), half the U.S. adult population have gum disease, running the risk of destruction of gum and bone tissue, loss of teeth, and illnesses such as stroke, heart disease and diabetes.
A solid routine of oral hygiene, professional preventive measures, and a healthy diet will greatly improve your resilience to these problems.
You can get further tips to prevent gum disease from a dentist experienced in periodontal care.
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