Although many people associated teeth with dentists, your general dentist is also concerned with the health of your gums. This is especially true considering the fact that the CDC estimates as many as 47.2% of American adults over the age of 30 have some form of gum disease. The most common cause of gum disease are large amounts of bacteria that collect and cause inflammation in the gum tissue. This can cause symptoms such as redness, swelling, and bleeding gums.
There are two forms of gum disease. The first is known as gingivitis, which is a mild form of gum disease that can be reversed with treatment. The second is known as periodontitis. Unfortunately, periodontitis is an advanced form of gum disease that cannot be cured, but can only be managed to prevent it from getting worse. To avoid periodontitis, you will need to keep your gums healthy. Here are some ways to do that:
Brush Twice a Day
Brushing your teeth is not only important for decreasing the risk of tooth decay, but also for decreasing the risk of gum disease as well. This is because brushing helps to remove excess plaque and bacteria that cause gum disease. Although it is recommended to brush at least twice a day, it is also strongly encouraged to brush after meals to remove food debris. To make the most of your brushing routine, be sure to use a fluoridated toothpaste and brush for at least two minutes. You will also want to switch your toothbrush every 3-4 months when the bristles start to fray or fade in color.
In addition to brushing twice a day, you will also need to floss once a day. Flossing removes plaque and bacteria from the places your toothbrush misses, like between your teeth and along the gum line. Unlike brushing, however, you will only want to floss once a day to prevent irritating your gums. To get the most out of your flossing routine, it is recommended to floss before bedtime right before brushing your teeth. This way the fluoride in your toothpaste can work its way in between your teeth and along the gum line.
Another way to increase your gum health is to use mouthwash, specifically to rinse your mouth after meals. There are a number of over the counter mouthwashes that can decrease the risk of gum disease by making it harder for plaque and tartar to form. However, it is important to realize that mouthwash should never be used as a replacement for brushing and flossing. Instead, it should be used in addition to proper brushing and flossing.
Regular Dental Cleanings
According to the American Dental Association, you should schedule a dental cleaning every six months in order to reduce the risk of gum disease. In some cases, your dentist may recommend having dental cleanings more often, especially if you are at an increased risk or already have active gum disease. During a dental cleaning, a dental hygienist will use special tools to remove excess plaque, as well as plaque that has hardened into tartar. In fact, tartar can only be removed during dental cleanings since it is too hard for your toothbrush to remove. Even if you brush and floss as recommended, dental cleanings are still necessary to remove plaque and tartar from areas that you may have missed.
If you are a smoker, one key way to improve your gum health is to quit smoking. In addition to a range of other health problems, smoking dramatically increases the risk of developing gum disease and slows the healing process. This means that gum disease can progress faster in an individual who smokes.