If you’re worried about gum disease, you’re not alone. Nearly half of adults in the United States suffer from periodontal disease, according to a recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Periodontal disease is an infection of the area around your teeth including gums, ligament, and bone.
It’s not pleasant to think about, but our mouths are full of bacteria. A build-up of the bacteria in plaque can cause inflammation and eventually bone deterioration, gum recession, tooth loss, and even heart disease.
The good news is that there are things you can do now to treat or prevent periodontal disease.
Check Your Dental Routine
Of course, everyone knows they should brush their teeth at least twice a day, preferably after every meal. But, don’t forget to also brush your tongue—a place where bacteria love to hide, warns the American Academy of Periodontology. Your toothbrush can’t do everything. Experts recommend flossing at least once a day to remove food trapped between teeth and along the gum line. Follow up with mouthwash to swish away any additional particles. To give your gums special attention, try gently brushing them with baking soda or aloe vera.
Think of Your Dentist as Your Friend
Keep up on your dental visits. It’s crucial to see your dentist every six months for a checkup and professional cleaning. While brushing and flossing help clear away early formations of plaque, your dental hygienist can remove stubborn plaque known as tartar. Your dentist will be able to assess your gum health using a probe that looks like a tiny ruler and may take an X-ray to check for bone loss.
Take Dietary Shortcuts to Happy Gums
Ensuring you’re getting enough of certain foods and vitamins may help keep periodontal disease at bay. The National Institute of Health suggests at least 100 to 200 milligrams of vitamin C daily for oral health, and a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition linked the anti-inflammatory benefits of vitamin D to stronger gums. Yet another reason to eat veggies—fibrous raw foods help clean your teeth and gums. Fancy a cup of tea? The antioxidant compounds in black and green teas can keep plaque from sticking to teeth.
Watch for Early Warning Signs
It may not be just the onions you had for lunch. People with persistent bad breath should take note as this can be a sign of poor gum health. The American Dental Association provides a list of additional symptoms that may alert you to periodontal disease. Look out for gums that are red, swollen, receding, or tender, and notice whether your gums bleed while you’re brushing or flossing your teeth. Take caution if you have loose or separated teeth, are experiencing a change in your bite, or notice that your dentures don’t fit the way they once did.
What to Do if You Have a Problem
Signs of gum disease could indicate a serious problem and should be checked by a dentist right away, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Be sure to talk to your dentist about your medical history and be upfront about any risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, or taking medications that reduce the flow of saliva in your mouth. If your gum health issues need further attention, your dentist may refer you to a periodontist, an expert who can give you more treatment options.