Keeping Your Gums and Teeth Healthy
Brushing and flossing your teeth isn’t difficult to do, doing both properly can help prevent gum disease and tooth decay.
Gum disease is caused by plaque, this sticky film made of bacteria, mucus, and other particles form on the teeth. When the plaque is not removed, it hardens into tarter that breeds bacteria. The bacteria in the plaque and tarter cause inflammation of the gums called gingivitis. Turning your teeth and gums into a neglected oral mess that can only be removed by a dental hygienist or dentist.
Gum disease has three stages:
- Gingivitis – This is the 1st stage, noticeably red swollen, tender gums that bleed easily. If treated early, the condition often can be reversed by proper brushing and flossing.
- Periodontitis – This refers to inflammation around the tooth. It is the 2nd stage and is a more advanced form of gum disease. This occurs when bacterial toxins in plaque break down the gum attachment to the tooth. The bacteria will cause the gums to pull away from the teeth and form pockets of infection. Early loss of bone around the teeth may be seen. Treatment at this stage is critical to prevent further decay of bone and loosening of teeth.
- Advanced Periodontitis – This is characterized by deepening of gum pockets and loss of bone that holds teeth in place. At this stage, teeth may loosen and or break. In most cases where there is significant bone loss many teeth will need to be extracted if periodontal treatment doesn’t restore bone support.
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of periodontal disease usually appear when the condition is advanced. Signs and symptoms are:
- Bad breath that persists
- Red, swollen, tender gums
- Receding gums (gums that pull away from the teeth)
- Pain when chewing
- Loose or sensitive teeth
The following factors put a person at more risk for developing gingivitis:
- Smoking or using chewing tobacco
- Hormonal changes in girls and women
- Certain medications
Good oral hygiene including brushing and flossing at least once every day. This will help prevent gum infections, cavities, and tooth loss. Having your teeth cleaned and checked by a dentist or dental hygienist at least once a year also is important, the ADA says. No matter how well you brush, tartar, and plaque can still build up and cause gum problems. This is why it is important to have your teeth checked minimum once a year.
To brush correctly:
- Do so in the morning and before going to sleep.
- Use a soft-bristled brush and toothpaste that contains fluoride. If you can afford the cost, buy and use an electric toothbrush.
- Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle against your gums and brush each tooth 15 to 20 times.
- Move the brush gently, using short strokes; don’t scrub.
- Brush the outer tooth surfaces using short, back-and-forth strokes.
- Brush the inner upper-front teeth by brushing vertically against them using short, downward strokes. Use short, upward strokes for lower inside teeth.
- Brush the chewing surfaces of the teeth with short, back-and-forth strokes. Replace your toothbrush when it’s worn or frayed–about every three or four months, experts say. You should also get a new toothbrush after you have had a cold, strep throat, or similar illness.
- Do not cover your toothbrush or store it in a closed container that can encourage growth of microorganisms.
Flossing helps remove plaque and food particles stuck between your teeth. To floss properly:
- Cut off about 16 inches of floss and hold it tightly between your thumbs and forefingers. Guide it between your teeth using a gentle, sliding motion.
- When the floss reaches the gum line, curve it around one tooth. Gently rub the side of the tooth, moving the floss with up-and-down motions. Repeat this method on the rest of your teeth, remembering to floss the back side of your back teeth.
The foods you eat contribute to tooth decay when they combine with bacteria in your mouth. To protect your teeth:
- Consume plenty of foods rich in calcium such as milk, yogurt, and cheese. Calcium helps maintain the bone the tooth roots are encapsulated in. This is particularly important for the elderly and children during development of baby to adult teeth.
- Try to avoid sticky sweets, such as soft candies, toffees, taffies, and pastries. If you eat sweets, rinse your mouth with water afterward or brush your teeth if you have a chance. This will help to decrease the amount of sugar that may stick to the teeth.
- If you chew gum, chew sugar-free brands.
Good Oral Care From The Start
There are so many good reasons to keep your family’s teeth and gums healthy. Their bright smiles come from the ability to chew and maintain oral health. And new research suggests that gum disease can lead to other problems in the body, including increased risk of heart disease.
Conveniently, there are simple ways to keep teeth strong and healthy from childhood to old age. Here’s how:
Start children early
Despite great strides in decay prevention, one in four young children develops signs of tooth decay before they start school. Half of all children between the ages of 12 and 15 have cavities. “Dental care should begin as soon as a child’s first tooth appears, usually around six months,” There are many ways to softly brush babies teeth, including wiping them with a soft cloth. Prescreen your children with the Healthy Start Program.
Seal off a potential problem.
Permanent molars come in around age 6. Thin protective coatings applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth can prevent decay in the pits and fissures. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sealants can significantly reduce caries. Yet only one in three U.S. kids receives dental sealants. Talk to your dental professional.
Use enough, but don’t overdue fluoride.
The single biggest advance in oral health has been fluoride, which strengthens enamel, making it less likely to decay. Three out of four Americans drink water that is fluoridated. If your water isn’t fluoridated, talk to your dental professional, who may suggest putting a fluoride application on your teeth. Many toothpastes and mouth rinses also contain fluoride. Fluoride should be used sparingly in young children, no more than a pea-sized dab on the toothbrush. Too much can cause white spots on teeth.
Brush at least twice a day and floss daily.
Gum disease and tooth decay remain big problems, and not just for older people. Three-fourths of teenagers have gums that bleed, according to the ADHA. Along with the basic advice, remember:
Toothbrushes should be changed 3 to 4 times a year.
- Teenagers with braces may need to use special toothbrushes and other oral hygiene tools to brush their teeth. Talk to your dentist or orthodontist.
- Older people with arthritis or other problems may have trouble holding a toothbrush or using floss. Some people find it easier to use an electric toothbrush. Others simply put a bicycle grip or foam tube over the handle of a regular toothbrush to make it easier to hold.
Rinse or chew gum after meals.
In addition to brushing and flossing, rinsing your mouth with an antibacterial rinse can help prevent decay and gum problems. Chewing sugar-free gum after a meal can also protect by increasing saliva flow, which naturally washes bacteria away and neutralizes acid.