Dr. Gary Glassman, Chief Dental Officer, dentalcorp
According to the Canadian Dental Association (CDA), seven out of 10 Canadians will develop gum disease at some time in their lives. Taking care of your gums is very important, not only to protect your teeth, but also because the state of your gums can impact other health conditions you may have. Gingivitis and periodontitis are two forms of gum disease, both of which are the results of bacterial infection in your gums, ligaments and bone around the teeth. While gum disease progresses slowly, if left untreated, it can lead to extensive bone loss that can cause teeth to loosen, and eventually lead to the affected teeth needing to be removed.
Establishing good oral health habits, both at work and at home, is a way to keep your gums firm, pink and healthy. Focusing on keeping the amount of harmful oral bacteria to a minimum should be your main goal. Here are a few tips for stellar gum health and a brighter smile.
1. Brush your teeth properly:
You’ve heard it time and again, but regular brushing is integral for maintaining good oral health. Researchers say periodontal disease is the most under-diagnosed ailment in dentistry, so for prevention, make sure to brush thoroughly with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day. I highly recommend investing in an electric toothbrush, like the Oral B IO Series. Using an electric toothbrush has many advantages over a manual one. They are superior in terms of plaque removal, have better cleaning power, and often come equipped with a two-minute timer, which is the recommended length of time to brush. Make sure to brush on and around the gum line. For extra prevention, keep a toothbrush in your desk at work so that you can brush your teeth after lunch. If you use a manual toothbrush, make sure to replace it every three months, or sooner, if the bristles begin to fray. Worn-down bristles don’t clean as well and can harbor more bacteria.
2. Floss daily:
Many people don’t realize that flossing actually reduces the occurrence of bleeding gums. Plaque on your teeth generates acid, which can cause cavities, irritate the gums and lead to gum disease. Flossing does about 40% of the work required to remove sticky bacteria, or plaque from your teeth. The CDA recommends flossing once a day, no matter what hour it is. Just be sure to fit it into your oral health routine. The MCC report also states that there is a significant association with periodontal status and missing teeth in connection with lung function, airflow limitation and reduced lung volume. So be sure to keep this in mind the next time you are thinking of skipping the flossing step.
You want to do everything you can to prevent gum disease. If you are too tired to floss at night or feel rushed in the morning, flossing at work after lunch is a great habit to form. Additionally, some people wonder if they should floss before or after they brush their teeth. The CDA also states that either way is acceptable, as long as you do a thorough job of removing the debris from in-between your teeth.
3. Use mouthwash:
There are various mouthwashes and rinses on the market to help prevent plaque build-up on your gums, in-between and on the surface of your teeth. Rinsing with an antimicrobial mouthwash can reduce bacteria in your mouth. Although most people tend to use mouthwash only after brushing, it can also be used before brushing to rinse out any loose particles in your mouth, making your oral care routine even more effective.
It is recommended that you use a mouthwash that is alcohol-free, such as Oral-B Breath Therapy rinse or Oral-B Cavity Protection rinse. Alcohol is what causes the burning feeling you get while swishing your mouthwash around your mouth. While it is powerful enough to kill an enormous amount of bacteria in your mouth, it can also kill the good bacteria, which causes an imbalance. Alcohol also acts as a drying agent, which inhibits saliva production and can cause dry mouth. On the other hand, alcohol-free mouthwashes can help your mouth continue to produce saliva. If you are unsure which mouthwash to choose, check with your dentist to see which kind would be best suited for your oral health needs.
4. Avoid dry mouth:
A lack of saliva can cause dry mouth, which can lead to increased plaque, tooth decay, gum disease, mouth sores and thrush. Dry mouth occurs when the salivary glands in your mouth don't produce enough saliva, leading to loss from your natural irrigation system. Dry mouth is often the result of dehydration and can cause a feeling of dryness or stickiness in your mouth. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are a number of illnesses and medications that can be the cause of dry mouth. Tobacco, alcohol use and/or recreational drug use can also be culprits. Dry mouth creates an environment where bacteria thrives, so to combat it, make sure to stay hydrated throughout the day, chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless lozenges or candy. Practicing good oral hygiene also includes keeping your saliva flowing.
5. Maintain a healthy lifestyle:
Practicing good nutrition and opting for healthy foods is an important part of your oral health and can help lower the risk of gum disease. Since bacteria loves to feed off of sugar, it is wise to stay away from it as much as possible. Stocking up with lots of water, milk, yogurts, fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods are always better options than sugary or fatty foods. If you are diabetic, it is important to be very diligent about keeping your sugar levels under control because higher sugar levels can raise the risk of gum disease. Additionally, if you needed another reason to quit smoking, this is it. Tobacco use increases the risk of gum disease and it also makes it harder for gum tissue to heal.
Although it is important to maintain good oral health all year round, World Oral Health Day can serve as a reminder to keep up with a good daily hygiene routine. Now is the perfect opportunity to educate yourself and others about gum disease and to understand how to take care of your gums.
Remember, if you have any gum bleeding, mouth sores, gum pain, and/or a sour taste in your mouth, visit your dentist immediately. It is also important to note that elderly patients are more likely to suffer from chronic gum disease than any other age group. Timely treatment can keep gingivitis from progressing into periodontitis and all the problems associated with it.