It’s all about the pearly whites.
Or is it?
While most of us diligent brush our teeth, and some even floss regularly, the gums are often one of the most misunderstood and neglected part of the oral cavity. To understand why gum disease is the primary cause of tooth loss in adults, it is important to understand the anatomy of the gums or gingiva, as you may hear you dentist refer to it.
The gums are not just the soft, pinkish tissue that is visible to the naked eye. Beneath the gums there is a network of bone that supports and holds the entire oral musculature together. In the event of an infection, in (cavity) or around (tartar), the tooth, the bone reacts by retracting away from the infection. Frequently, this creates a gap between the bone and the soft tissue, which acts as non-cleansable food-trap, thus furthering the decay cycle.
So, how do you check if your gums are healthy or not?
Healthy gums are firm and tight. Neither can they be pulled away from the bone nor do they feel soft and squishy as a rule.
Healthy gums are pink in colour and may posses some amount of racial melanin pigmentation. Dark coloured gums aren’t a cause for concern folks! But red, bleeding gums are.
Healthy gums should feel, look and SMELL clean. If you constantly get a bad odour or feel roughness and bulk around the neck of your teeth, it’s time to pay your dentist a little visit.
If your teeth feel loose, your teeth seem to be getting longer over time or they seem to have moved from where they were before (development of gaps), you’ll want to get a consult a gum specialist, called a periodontist.
Regular care for your gums
Your gums essentially are the pillar to the home that is your mouth. Therefore, it is critical to develop an appreciation for their care. Here is how:
Brush Away Gum Disease: Pardon the pun, but honestly, there is nothing like a proper brush session. Like they have been saying, brush twice a day, with a pea sized amount of toothpaste with a medium bristle brush, in circular motions and you’ll be largely sorted orally. You can also use an electric toothbrush for a deeper cleanse and remember to change your toothbrush every 3 months. When it comes to the debate of fluoridated toothpastes, there is too much evidence for it so we vouch by it. For adults, your toothpaste should contain above 1350 ppm of fluoride and for children it should be about a 1000 ppm of fluoride. Also, don’t let the kiddos lick the very yummy paste!
Floss like a boss: Decay begins in areas that cannot be cleaned and the junction between two teeth, especially at the back, is its sweet spot. The bristles of the brush are often either too large or cannot be properly manipulated to get to these tight corners. Thus, flossing comes to the rescue. In case you experience difficulty manipulating a floss thread, you can shift to a water floss which shoots short bursts of water to flush out these tight areas.
Quit smoking: There are thousands of studies that clearly demonstrate a direct relationship of smoking with rampant gum disease. Not only does nicotine stain your teeth stubbornly, it also makes it difficult for your gums to heal on their own as smoking weakens the immune system. While there are a number of other reasons why one should quit smoking, your dentist can definitely recommend a solid few!
Show your dentist some Luurve!: Dental clinics can be scary places and most of us avoid the recommended yearly visit unless we experience pain. Regular dental visits, with a session of cleaning can actually nip the problem in the bud and save you a LOT of time and money, and of course your healthy natural teeth, in the long run.
Add on a mouthwash: Antiseptic and therapeutic mouthwashes are great to rinse debris and food particles out of your mouth. Their primary function is to reduce plaque build up that leads to a rainbow range of problems. A fluoridated mouthwash should be used after a minimum of 30 minutes after brushing to not wash away the concentrated fluoride that has been left after brushing. However, note that a mouthwash is just an adjunct and NOT a substitute for brushing and flossing.
Some other FAQs
When should I floss?
Before brushing your teeth preferably. However, according to the American Dental Association, anytime is fine, as long as you do it!
How often should I visit the dentist?
For healthy young, individuals we recommend once a year, unless advised otherwise. Depending on your oral condition your dentist might also recall you quarterly or biannually.
Do I need to use a medicated mouthwash?
Not really. Medicated mouthwashes are typically given after a gum surgery. They usually contain Chlorhexidine, which should not be used for more than 30 days at a time. If you aren’t comfortable with a mouthwash, rinse with regular water or lukewarm water with lemon.