February is Gum Disease Awareness Month and, frankly, it’s about time we give gums their due. No, they aren’t all white and shiny like our teeth. When someone says you have a dazzling smile, they likely aren’t referring to the look of your gumline.
But, while we fully acknowledge that gums are not the sexiest part of our smiles, they are vitally important. Healthy gums wrap tightly around the base of each tooth, forming a barrier that bacteria can’t breach. They protect the delicate tooth roots from decay and sensitivity. And, of course, gums hold our teeth in place. If gums begin to deteriorate and recede, teeth will loosen and fall out. In fact, far more people lose their pearlies to gum disease than to tooth decay.
So pay attention to your gums. Every once in a while, run your finger along your gumline to feel for notches or gaps. Smile in the mirror to make sure they are firm, tight around the teeth, and a healthy pink color.
Practice Good Oral Hygiene
When you brush and floss, you are not just benefitting your teeth. You are helping to keep your gums healthy too.
- Brush twice every day for two minutes at a time. In addition to reaching all tooth surfaces, pay close attention to the gumline, holding your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle. Apply gentle pressure, as brushing too hard will wear away your tooth enamel and harm your gums, even causing them to recede. Always use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Brushing the tongue eliminates additional harmful bacteria.
- Floss at least once per day. Time of day doesn’t really matter, though lots of people prefer doing the job at night to clean their teeth of any residual food. When you floss, be sure to clean under the gumline. Take care when doing this — it should not be painful!
- Rinsing with antibacterial mouthwash kills disease-causing bacteria and helps rinse away food particles.
Put Out Your Smoking Habit
You’ve surely heard it again and again. If you smoke, stop. Smoking is destructive to your entire body, causing everything from cancer to lung disease to cardiovascular disease. It (and smokeless forms of tobacco) are also, unsurprisingly, terrible for your dental health, including your gums.
Smoking is one of the leading risk factors for developing periodontal disease, and smokers’ disease tends to be resistant to treatment. Of all people with gum disease, people who use tobacco are more likely to end up losing teeth.
We understand that it’s far from easy to quit smoking. The American Lung Association has compiled some resources that we hope you find helpful.
Don’t Grind Your Teeth
Clenching or grinding your teeth, or bruxism, is a common habit that often happens as you sleep. It may be the result of stress or anxiety. Left untreated, it can have numerous serious consequences.
- You may begin to experience problems with your TMJ, like jaw pain, migraines, or facial muscle soreness.
- You will begin to wear down your tooth enamel.
- You may injure your gums or cause them to recede.
At Davenport Dental Group, we can fit you with a custom mouthguard to wear at night that prevents you from clenching or grinding your teeth.
Eat Foods with Folic Acid
Folic acid is a vitamin that is beneficial to gum health. It appears to minimize inflammation and make gums more resistant to plaque and bacteria. It may also reduce bleeding gums due to periodontal disease.
Folic acid is especially recommended for pregnant women, who are susceptible to “pregnancy gingivitis,” or gum problems brought on by hormonal changes.
Visit Davenport Dental Group Every Six Months
Even if you eat right and take excellent care of your oral health at home, regular dental visits are essential. Our skilled hygienists have the expertise and special tools to remove built-up plaque and tartar at and even under the gumline.
One of our doctors will give your mouth a thorough examination. Early-stage gum disease, or gingivitis, often exhibits no symptoms at all. So you may have it but not even realize it. We will catch even early gingivitis during our exam, so you can get started on the road to recovery right away.
Follow the above advice, and you have the best chance for keeping your gums healthy and free of disease. If you are due for a cleaning and exam at Davenport Dental Group, you may reach us online or call one of our Laredo, TX offices directly: Junction Drive at 956-242-6745 or Winfield at 956-517-2695.