Your gums, scientifically referred to as gingiva, are made of a soft tissue that covers and protects the bones of your teeth. Your gums are an important part of your oral health, as well as your overall health. Keeping your gums healthy and free of gum disease will not only protect your smile, but will benefit your overall well-being.
What Do Your Gums Do?
The reason your gums are so important to your oral health is because their job is to protect your teeth. The gum tissues are attached to your teeth’s underlying bone, which allows the soft tissue to resist the friction created as food passes over them. In order to protect the underlying structures of your teeth, the gingiva creates a tight seal around the portion of each tooth where the crown meets the root. This seal provides a barrier against bacteria on each individual tooth.
Why Gum Health is Important
As you’ve learned, your gums are what cover the bones of your teeth and provide a barrier against bacteria. Compromised gum health from gingivitis or periodontal disease can cause serious damage to your smile, such as tooth loss.
Besides harming your smile, studies indicate that poor gum health may also affect cardiovascular and respiratory health. According to Harvard Health Publishing, people who have periodontal disease are two to three times more likely to suffer a heart attack, some other serious cardiovascular event or a stroke, than those who do not have the disease. This is because once the oral bacteria enters the bloodstream through an opening in the gum, it attaches to the fatty plaque, contributing to the formation of clots and potentially obstructing blood flow to the heart.
Individuals who have gum disease are also at an increased risk of developing some type of respiratory infection. These infections include pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and acute bronchitis. These respiratory infections result when an individual with compromised gum health inhales the bacteria in his or her mouth.
Common Causes of Poor Gum Health
- Plaque Build-Up — As plaque builds up on the gum line, it releases toxins, which irritate the gingiva, causing inflammation.
- Gingivitis — This is the early stage of gum disease. Gingivitis symptoms include inflamed, red gums that bleed easily.
- Periodontal Disease — Left untreated, gingivitis may progress to periodontal disease. This form of gum disease causes infections that affect the bone and gums. Once more advanced stages of periodontal disease develop, individuals experience receding gums, pain when chewing, and tooth loss.
- Hormonal Changes — As a woman’s estrogen and progesterone levels rise, more blood flows to the gums. Some hormonal changes women experience during pregnancy can cause pregnancy gingivitis.
- Diabetes — People with diabetes who have difficulty controlling their sugar levels often develop severe forms of gingivitis.
- Genetics — Some people are genetically prone to developing gum disease. Identifying these individuals early on through genetic testing may allow for early intervention.
- Smoking — Individuals who smoke are three to six times more likely to develop periodontitis than nonsmokers.
How to Keep Gums Healthy
Your gum health is important and should be a priority in your oral health routine. Here are ways to keep your gums healthy, and free of gum disease.
Brush Your Teeth Correctly at Least Twice a Day
Brushing your teeth is one of the most important steps you can take at home for your overall oral health, especially your gums. Brush with a soft-bristled toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums twice a day, and after meals, if you are especially prone to plaque build-up.
Antibacterial Toothpaste and Mouthwash
Mouthwash does much more than freshen your breath, especially antiseptic mouthwash. When you rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash, you can kill the bacteria responsible for causing plaque and gingivitis. Toothpaste that contains triclosan act as an antibacterial to destroy gum disease-causing bacteria in the mouth.
Floss Correctly at Least Once a Day
Flossing eliminates the plaque and food particles between your teeth and along your gum line, which are places that a toothbrush cannot reach. When plaque is not removed, it hardens and becomes what is referred to as tartar. Tartar can only be removed by a dental hygienist or a dentist. This is why you should floss your teeth with the right type of floss at least once a day for optimal gum health.
Avoid Tobacco Products
Tobacco products not only yellow your teeth, but they can also cause irreversible damage to your gums. One of the best things you can do for your gums is to avoid tobacco use. Studies show that it may be one of the most significant risk factors associated with the development and progression of gingivitis.
Always Schedule Biannual Professional Dental Cleanings
Practicing good oral hygiene can go a long way in preventing gum disease. However, biannual professional dental cleanings are still an essential tool in maintaining healthy teeth and gums. During dental cleanings, your dental hygienist and dentist can examine your oral tissues for any early gum problems, and advise you on treatment to keep your gums healthy.
Williams & Daily Dental is a family and cosmetic dentist located in North Raleigh, NC with a team of dedicated dentists enthusiastic in their commitment to their patients. We offer dental implants, Invisalign teeth straightening, in-office and home teeth whitening options, and Oral-B electric toothbrushes. Contact Williams & Daily at (919) 846-9070 for more information and to schedule an appointment today.