Do you ever spit out blood when you brush or floss? If you do, you could be seeing the early stages of gum disease, or gingivitis, as it’s commonly known. Luckily, if caught in the early stages, gum disease is reversible with a few changes to your oral care routine. It’s important to make these changes as soon as you notice pain or bleeding as – if allowed to develop – gum disease can affect the health of your entire body.
Gum disease is an inflammation of the gums that is caused by the bacteria in plaque; a sticky, colorless film that is constantly forming on your teeth. If plaque is not removed by daily brushing and flossing, it will build up and the bacteria will eventually infect the gum tissue and bone that support the teeth. This can cause them to become loose, fall out, or requiring removal by a dentist.
A few symptoms of gum disease include:
- Gums that are red, puffy or swollen, or tender
- Gums that bleed during brushing or flossing
- Teeth that look longer because your gums have receded
- Gums that have separated, or pulled away from your teeth
- Changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- Pus coming from between your teeth and gums
- Constant bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
It’s important to know that gum disease can be treated, especially if it is caught in the early stages of gingivitis. Under the direction of your dentist or orthodontist, you can get a professional cleaning to remove built-up plaque that has hardened, and then work to reverse the effects of early gum disease with proper brushing and flossing.
Bottom line: A consistent oral care routine and regular checkups are the best way to prevent gum disease.
Here are a few dental tricks to keep your gums and the rest of your mouth healthy:
- Brush twice daily: Use fluoride toothpaste and be sure to pay attention to your gum line. Brush gently for two to three minutes.
- Floss daily: This removes plaque from spaces your brush cannot reach.
- Eat healthily: Sugar and starch increase the production of plaque. Look for foods rich in vitamin C and A to fortify your gum tissue.
- Avoid smoking cigarettes, hookah and vaporizing: The nicotine and tobacco in cigarettes and Hookah molasses have long been known to increase smokers’ risk of developing gum disease. Even e-cigarettes that contain nicotine can contribute to periodontal disease and cancer.
- Monitor medications: Certain prescription medications can worsen existing oral ailments. Speak with your doctor about your options if this is a concern.
- Add mouthwash to your routine: An antiseptic mouth rinse can reduce harmful plaque by as much as 20 percent.
- Visit a dental professional: Schedule regular checkups to maintain a healthy smile.
Your oral health habits not only contribute to a healthy smile; they also protect your body from sickness. Patients with gum disease are almost twice as likely to have coronary artery disease as people without gum disease. Another health concern is diabetes—diabetes is a risk factor for worsening gum disease, and gum disease is a risk factor for increased blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. If you are a diabetes sufferer, speak to your dentist or orthodontist about how they can help.
For all of these reasons and more, taking care of your entire mouth is critical to keeping your body healthy. If you don’t already, try out a few of our suggestions during September and beyond—it takes 21 days to form a habit, so maybe you’ll become a regular flosser, or even make larger changes, such as quitting smoking, come October!