When you think of the dentist, chances are you think of teeth — whether they have cavities, whether they’re stained, whether they need to be removed. The truth is that gums are the foundation of your smile, and are in many ways more important.
Part of the soft tissue lining of the mouth, the gums form a seal around the most vulnerable part of teeth, protecting them from harmful bacteria. Healthy gums are coral red in color and tightly compacted against the teeth. Any dramatic change in color or size, especially increased redness coupled with swelling and a tendency to bleed when flossing, suggests inflammation that may be due to an accumulation of bacteria in the form of plaque. Over time this could lead the gums to pull away from teeth, which makes them less effective at protecting against bacteria. This could lead to periodontitis or gum disease, and can damage not just your mouth, but your body, as well, increasing your chances of heart disease and many other serious health risks.
To stay on top of your oral health and avoid gum disease in the future, follow these 3 tips.
Brush More Than Your Teeth
Hopefully you’ve been brushing regularly twice a day, and hopefully one of those times is before going to sleep. Saliva is your mouth’s best defense against bacteria, but saliva levels drop at night, so sleep is a particularly vulnerable time for your mouth. If you’ve been accomplishing both these things — good work! There’s still more to do. Brushing only your teeth is quite enough, which is why proper brushing technique includes brushing your gums, as well.
Next time you’re in front of the bathroom mirror, angle your brush at a 45 degree angle to your gum line. As food debris tends to become caught here, this is a danger zone for bacteria. Focus of getting the bristles to lightly touch your gums, and be careful not to overbrush. This could further irritate your gums.
Don’t Skip the Floss
According to a 2014 survey, 60% of Americans don’t floss every day, and 20% don’t floss at all. If you’re counted among this 60% or 20%, you’re making a mistake! Flossing clears plaque from hard-to-reach places along your gum line and below it. Pay attention the next time you floss. If you create blood, then your flossing game could be improved. Using 12-16 inches of floss, gently dip between each tooth and then your gum line to clear any plaque that has form near the gums.
Regular Check-ups Are a Must
If you aren’t already seeing your dentist for regular checkups and cleanings, it’s definitely time to make that a priority. The American Dental Association suggests visiting your dentist once every six months to clean tartar that has formed on your teeth, and to treat any dental complications before they can advance. Remember that once tartar forms, it can only safely be removed using a special instrument. Your dentist or dental hygienist can also give you advice on where your oral hygiene routines are up to par.