Every dentist will remind you to brush your teeth twice a day, but did you know that brushing your gums is just as important as brushing your teeth? Researchers have linked gum disease with a range of serious medical conditions in men and women. By taking good care of your gums, you can improve your overall wellness and reduce your risk of developing certain chronic diseases.
Healthy Gums and Your Body
If your gums are healthy, you’re at a reduced risk of developing common chronic diseases. According to Harvard Health Publications, if your gums are healthy, you’re less likely to suffer from diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, dementia and pregnancy complications.
It’s unclear why gum disease is linked to other chronic conditions, but researchers believe the inflammation that bacteria cause when they invade the gums may be a key factor. Inflammation destroys gum tissue and the bony structure that supports teeth, eventually resulting in tooth loss. Inflammation is also an element in many chronic diseases. The upside is, improving gum health can also improve chronic disease symptoms. For example, research suggests that treating gum disease may lessen the severity of diabetes.
What Do Healthy Gums Look Like?
Most people experience the symptoms of gum disease at some time in their lives. Healthy gums are pink and firm, and they don’t bleed. Diseased gums may be red, swollen, tender or bleeding, and you may have bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth, and it may be painful to chew, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other symptoms of gum disease include sensitive or loose teeth, gums that don’t adhere to your teeth and a mismatched bite or ill-fitting dentures.
How to Prevent Gum Disease
If your gums are healthy, you’re one of the lucky ones—only 1 in 4 adults over the age of 35 have healthy gums. But there are simple, effective steps you can take to improve and maintain your gum health.
- Brushing and flossing: when you brush your teeth, brush your gums as well using a gentle, circular motion, and floss between your teeth once a day. Don’t brush too hard or use a hard-bristled toothbrush because this can make your gums recede.
- Mouthwash: the American Dental Association recommends using a therapeutic mouthwash to prevent or reduce mild symptoms of gum disease.
- Dental visits: see your dentist for a checkup every six months. Treating gum disease in its early stages prevents it from spreading and causing severe and permanent damage to your teeth.
- Diet: a recent study suggests that a diet high in the omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish may reduce your risk of gum disease. Fruits, vegetables and vegetable oils, nuts and legumes are also good for healthy gums.
Looking after your oral health means caring for your gums as well as your teeth. When your gums are healthy, you reduce your risk of developing bad breath, dental decay and a whole range of harmful diseases. Brush, floss, use a mouthwash, visit your dentist regularly and eat healthily to reap the benefits of disease-free gums.