Bright, symmetrical teeth may be the first thing you notice about a person’s smile, but did you know the health of your gums is just as important? When you’re maintaining good gum health, you’re protecting yourself from serious dental issues and even potential tooth loss. Let’s take a look at the benefits of practicing good oral hygiene and the risks of gum disease.
Common Gum Health Issues
Did you know almost half of Americans over the age of 30 have some form of gum disease? The problem begins when bacteria in the mouth build up and combine with other particles, creating a substance called plaque. When plaque isn’t removed, it can collect along and below the gum line, causing an infection. Gum disease occurs in two stages:
- Gingivitis, which is a mild inflammation of the gums—Symptoms include redness and swelling, and you may experience some bleeding when you brush your teeth. Gingivitis can usually be reversed with a professional cleaning and a consistent oral hygiene routine.
- Periodontitis, which is the more advanced stage of infection—Symptoms can include receding gums, pain while chewing, bad breath that doesn’t go away and loose or missing teeth. Periodontitis requires a deep cleaning by your dentist and may require other treatments like antibiotics or surgery.
In the early stages, gum disease may not be very noticeable, but if the problem progresses, it can cause the loss of one or more teeth. It’s important to have regular checkups with your dentist so they can look for signs of inflammation. If you notice any issues like swollen gums or bleeding, make an appointment with your dentist as soon as you can.
Gum Health and the Rest of Your Body
Taking good care of your oral health doesn’t just protect you from tooth loss. It can have an impact on your overall health, too. The bacteria that naturally build up in your mouth need to be kept under control or they can contribute to health conditions like:
- Endocarditis, an infection of the heart’s inner lining—Bacteria from other parts of the body, including the mouth, can travel through the bloodstream and build up in the heart. Endocarditis is a serious condition that can be life threatening if it’s left untreated.
- Heart disease—Doctors are still researching the connection between gum health and heart disease, but there is evidence that good oral health lowers your risk for clogged arteries and stroke.
- Pneumonia—Oral bacteria can travel to the lungs and cause infection. The risk for this is especially high among older adults.
As you can see, your gum health affects the health of your whole body. At the same time, certain medical conditions can have an impact on your oral health. You may be at a higher risk for gum disease if you suffer from:
- Diabetes, which affects your body’s ability to fight infection—Studies show that around 95% of people living with diabetes will experience gingivitis or periodontitis. There’s also evidence that good oral health can help your body control blood sugar levels.
- HIV/AIDS—People with HIV or AIDS are more vulnerable to bacterial infections, including infections of the gums like gingivitis. They also experience higher rates of oral health issues like mouth sores and thrush.
- Alzheimer’s disease, which can make it more difficult to maintain a consistent oral hygiene routine—People living with Alzheimer’s disease may need reminders or assistance with brushing and flossing their teeth.
If you or a loved one is living with any of these conditions, it’s important to see your dentist at least twice a year for checkups and cleanings. Your dentist may want to see you more often depending on the level of care you need to keep your teeth and gums healthy.
Tips for Good Gum Health
In addition to regular appointments with your dentist, keeping your gums healthy means sticking to a consistent routine. Be sure to:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a toothpaste that contains fluoride. If you’re not sure which brands are best for your teeth, look for the ADA seal of approval. Your dentist can also make recommendations for toothpastes that promote gum health.
- Use an antibacterial mouthwash after brushing your teeth to reduce the level of bacteria in your mouth.
- Floss every day. Food particles and bacteria caught between your teeth can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
- Avoid tobacco products. Smokers are twice as likely to suffer from gum disease than nonsmokers. If you smoke or chew tobacco, now is the time to quit.
If you’re at a higher risk for developing problems with your gums, your dentist may have additional recommendations for you to follow. Be sure to let them know if you have any questions or concerns about your oral health.
We Love Healthy Smiles
At LifeSmiles by Randy Mitchmore, DDS, we use the latest technology to offer advanced dental care in a friendly, anxiety-free environment. Contact us to make your appointment for luxurious poolside dentistry.