The teeth and tongue usually take center stage when people think of anything to do with the mouth. But maintaining healthy gums is also an important part of any oral care regimen.
Healthy vs. Unhealthy Gums
Start by looking at your gums if you think you might have an issue with gum disease. Healthy gums will look firm and pink. Unhealthy gums will look red or swollen. They also might bleed when you brush or floss.
Besides poor oral hygiene, other factors can lead to unhealthy gums. Some of those include tobacco use, a compromised immune system due to a serious medical issue, and malnutrition.
Gums can bleed for several reasons. Perhaps you’ve recently started flossing, or you might be pregnant. Bleeding gums are also a symptom of gingivitis. People who have gingivitis will tend to notice their gums bleed when they brush their teeth.
How Do I Take Care of My Gums?
Taking care of your gums is just as important as taking care of your teeth. Here are some ways on how to get healthy gums.
Brushing and Flossing
Brush your teeth after every meal. If that isn’t possible, brush them at least twice each day. Brushing removes food particles and plaque that can cause gum disease. Don’t forget to brush your tongue, too, as its surface is an ideal place for bacteria to collect.
Use a toothbrush for gums with soft bristles. You might want to try an electric toothbrush as they are more effective at reducing plaque and bacteria than a manual brush. Replace your manual toothbrush or the head on your electric toothbrush every few months.
Flossing goes hand-in-hand with brushing. It removes food particles and plaque that get stuck in spots a toothbrush can’t reach. A floss container is small enough to conveniently fit in your pocket so that you can floss on the go.
Use a gum care toothpaste that contains fluoride. Fluoride keeps enamel – the hard surface that protects your teeth – strong and resistant to tooth decay. Make sure that the toothpaste you use has the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of approval.
Rinse with Mouthwash
Rinse your mouth with a therapeutic mouthwash after you brush and floss to reduce or prevent gingivitis. It also reduces plaque accumulation. Like your toothpaste, use a rinse that has the ADA seal of approval.
Schedule Dental Checkups
Your dentist can check your gums for any signs of gum disease while also professionally cleaning your teeth. A cleaning by your dentist is the only way to remove tartar. It will also eliminate any remaining plaque you missed brushing and flossing.
Smoking has been proven to cause numerous health issues, including weakening the body’s immune system. Damaged gums on a smoker also have a difficult time in healing. Additionally, gum disease treatment options aren’t as successful in people who smoke.
This applies to any tobacco usage. That includes cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and smokeless tobacco.
Eat Healthy Foods
Food consumption is a way to naturally keep your gums healthy. Avoid eating or drinking foods that are high in sugar and starches. Those foods and drinks produce acids that remain in the mouth.
The longer they stay in your mouth, the more damage the sugar can cause. Sugary foods to avoid include candy, cookies, chips, dried fruits, and raisins.
What Is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is when the gumline becomes inflamed enough to affect the bones that contain and support your teeth. There are three stages to gum disease: gingivitis, periodontitis, and advanced periodontitis.
This is the first stage of gum disease. The gums become inflamed due to plaque collecting along the gumline. They’ll appear to be swollen or red. The gums can also bleed when you brush or floss. Gingivitis can still be reversed as the infection has yet to reach the bone.
The bones and fibers that hold teeth in place become irreversibly damaged during this phase of gum disease—a pocket forms below the gumline, allowing plaque to grow. Professional dental therapy and improved oral care by the patient can prevent additional damage to the gums, tissues, and bones.
The last stage of gum disease is the most serious. The disease is destroying your teeth, bones, and fibers. That can result in your teeth loosening or shifting position. That displacement of your teeth can affect daily functions such as speaking and eating. It can also affect your bite alignment. It’s possible that the damage will necessitate tooth extraction.
Gum Disease Causes
Bacteria in plaque cause gum disease. Plaque is a clear, sticky film that constantly forms on teeth. Tartar, also known as calculus, forms when plaque isn’t removed and hardens on a tooth’s surface. Only a dental professional can remove tartar. Brushing and flossing alone won’t remove it.
Dry mouth is another possible cause of gum disease. Antihistamines, decongestants, and painkillers can cause dry mouth.
Gum Disease Symptoms
Gum disease symptoms tend to be painless, so it can be very easy to have it and not even know.
- Gums that are red, swollen, or tender
- Signs of gum recession
- Brushing and flossing cause your gums to bleed
- Chronic bad breath
- Severe tooth sensitivity to foods or drinks that are hot or cold
- Loose teeth
- Painful when chewing food
- Realigned bite
- Dentures no longer fit correctly
- Visible puss emanating from teeth and gums
Consult your dentist if you have any of the following symptoms.
Gum Disease Treatment Options
Gingivitis can be reversed by learning how to improve gum health with a good oral care routine. Gum disease that has advanced to phases two or three, periodontitis or advanced periodontitis, requires a dental treatment option. Here are some ways to fix gum damage due to periodontitis or advanced periodontitis.
This two-step procedure involves removing plaque and tartar from a tooth’s surface and below the gumline. Removal can occur with a manual hand device or an ultrasonic scaling device.
Root planing involves smoothing out a root’s surface to make rough areas smooth. This process decreases gum inflammation and prevents plaque and tartar from re-adhering to the root’s surface.
A gingivectomy is the complete removal of a portion of gum in and around a tooth to treat gum disease. The process also lengthens the height or width of a tooth.
The surgery is performed with a scalpel or laser. The remaining healthy gum is sutured back to the tooth once the diseased section has been removed.
Pocket Reduction Surgery
Also called flap surgery, this treatment involves tiny incisions in the gums to lift the tissue back to expose the root. Your dentist can then perform more effective scaling and root planing. The underlying bone might need to be recontoured if the advanced periodontitis has caused bone loss.
A simple extraction is the removal of a visible tooth. General Dentists often tend to perform this procedure.
An oral surgeon may perform a surgical extraction. This is necessary when the tooth is below the gum surface or has fractured at the gumline and requires retractions of tissue and removal of small amounts of bone.
What Is a Gum Stimulator?
A gum stimulator is a dental tool that has a long, metal arm and a rubber or silicone tip. Dentists recommend them to patients who have gum disease. Implementing a gum stimulator can prevent gum disease from spreading.
Gum stimulators have two main functions. First, they massage your gums to avert gum disease or prevent it from worsening. Second, they clean between your teeth by removing food particles and plaque. Those substances can cause cavities and gum disease.
A gum stimulator’s massaging action increases blood flow to the gums. Increased blood flow provides more oxygen to gum tissues, healthy or infected.
How to Use a Gum Stimulator
To use a gum stimulator, start by brushing your teeth for two minutes. Brush with a soft-bristled brush. Then floss between your teeth. An interdental brush will work if you don’t have floss or a flossing device.
Then use the gum stimulator to gently massage along the gumlines. Use the tip to remove any food particles or plaque that brushing and flossing missed. Lastly, rinse with mouthwash.
The tips are designed to be replaceable so monitor them for wear over time. You can purchase gum stimulators at drug or grocery stores. Talk to your dentist to see if you should use a gum stimulator as part of your oral care regimen.
Find a Dentist Near You to Discuss Your Dental Hygiene
Consult your dentist to discuss the best methods to keep your gums healthy or if you have symptoms of gum disease. Visit The Smile Generation to find a dentist near you for your gum disease prevention and treatment needs. You can read patient reviews, peruse staff bios, and schedule an appointment online with a click of your mouse.