More than half of American adults live with gum disease. Over the age of 65, that figure skyrockets to seventy percent! Gingivitis and periodontal disease can affect people of all ages, and it can become a serious health problem if left untreated. September is National Gum Care Month, so we wanted to take a moment to highlight the importance of healthy gums and give you some great tips to keep your gums in top shape.
Gum Care Is Self Care!
Caring for your gums is about more than just keeping your smile looking good and your breath smelling fresh. Great gum care enhances whole-body health in many ways. The link between gum health and whole-body wellness is clear, and new research comes out every year that expands on the many ways your oral health can impact the rest of your body.
From heart disease and diabetes to arthritis and many types of cancer, periodontal disease may increase your risk factors for many other problems. As we discussed in the last post, great gum health may even help improve your immune response if you catch COVID-19. So gum care truly is a way to invest in the wellness of your entire body!
The basic understanding we currently have is that chronic gum disease puts strain on your immune system. The bacteria growing on—and especially between—your teeth trigger your immune cells to flood to the area and try to defend against possible infection. However, without help from you, those immune cells don’t really stand a chance against oral pathogens. They start to build up, and travel throughout the blood systems to other areas of the body.
Those inflammatory cells can cause inflammation in other tissues such as your joints and pancreas. In addition, live oral bacteria have also been found in arterial plaque! That means the bacteria themselves can actually enter the bloodstream and travel to other areas of your body.
Gum Care Is Easy!
The good news is that protecting yourself from these severe outcomes of gum disease is easy. In fact, it takes a grand total of about six minutes per day. Two minutes to brush in the morning, two minutes to brush in the evening, and about two minutes to clean in between your teeth once per day. That small time investment plus a professional cleaning two to four times per year is all it takes!
As fast and easy as it is, brushing and especially flossing can seem like huge burdens. You’re not alone. Even your dental hygienist gets sick of flossing sometimes. (After all, we have to floss all our patients, plus our own teeth. Ugh!)
Cleaning between the teeth really is the key to great gum health. Even the best brushing in the world cannot access the area between your teeth, which is where bacteria grow the best and where the gum tissue is most sensitive to infection. That is really where we need to focus. The good news is there are many ways to clean between your teeth!
Gum Care Tips and Tricks
Flossing really is the gold standard for great gum care. If your teeth touch, floss is one of the only effective ways to clean between them. Your Lake Baldwin Dental hygienist can demonstrate great technique for you next time you’re in for a cleaning, but here are some basics to get you started: 1) make sure you get all the way to the base of your gums, which means the floss should actually go under the gums a little bit; 2) scrub each surface up and down about three times and avoid “sawing” motions against the gum tissue; 3) don’t forget to hook around the back surface of that last tooth in the back!
There are all types of floss to choose from. We recommend trying out different types until you find the one that works best for you. Personally, I have found many patients like the Listerine Ultra Clean tape floss because it’s stretchy and comfortable and removes a ton of plaque.
If you have limited dexterity, hate putting your hands in your mouth, or just can’t get yourself to stay disciplined with flossing, a WaterPik is your best bet. This amazing gadget flushes bacteria out from under your gums and between your teeth using a pulsing stream of water. We have seen amazing results for many patients with a WaterPik. Honestly, you might want to consider adding it to your regimen even if you do floss every day! It gets in lots of nooks and crannies that even floss can’t access. Great option for kids, and an absolute must for anyone with braces!
If you have wide spaces between some of your teeth or you are missing teeth, proxy brushes are a great addition. Similar in appearance to a pipe cleaner, but with specialized bristles appropriate for use in the mouth, these small brushes do an amazing job brushing hard-to-reach surfaces between wide-set teeth. These tiny brushes are also great for orthodontic appliances!
There are so many options for cleaning between your teeth, beyond what we’ve reviewed here. Your LBD dental team is always happy to review what options are best for your teeth. However, the real key to great gum care is motivation! Any time you feel like skipping it, remember that an extra 90 seconds or so, once per day, can help protect you against inflammatory diseases like arthritis as well as heart disease and pancreatic cancer as well as a host of other diseases.
Call us to schedule your next cleaning and review your gum care options with one of our amazing hygienists. Give your gums some TLC and keep flossing, Orlando!