Keep your mouth clean this year
It’s time to set some New Year’s resolutions! If keeping a healthy lifestyle is on your list for 2018, don’t forget to include good dental hygiene. A healthy mouth can help you ward off many medical problems. But gum disease — also called gingivitis and periodontal disease — may actually leave you more at risk for disorders and diseases like heart attack and stroke.
What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissue and bone that hold the teeth in place. It’s caused by plaque on the teeth — that sticky film you feel between brushings. That plaque has bacteria in it which produce toxins that can irritate your gums.
As the infection worsens, your gums start to pull away from your teeth and create pockets which create more space for bacteria and make it even harder to clean. Your gums become more and more damaged, and without treatment, teeth may eventually fall out or need to be removed.
Fortunately, treating periodontal disease early can reduce the damage and prevent you from losing your teeth.
What are the warning signs?
It can be difficult to know if you have periodontal disease in the early stages, so it’s important to see your dentist regularly. Your dentist can keep an eye on your gums and tell if periodontal disease is forming.
If the disease is more progressed, you may notice these warning signs:
- Tender or swollen gums
- Gums that bleed when you floss or brush
- Persistent bad breath
- Loose or separating teeth
How can I prevent periodontal disease?
Brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
Yes, this sounds basic, but it bears repeating. Did you know that 23 percent of Americans have gone more than two days without brushing? In fact, one in 10 people admit they regularly forget to brush their teeth! Get on it, people!
Use toothbrush bristles to clean bacteria underneath the gum tissue and between the teeth
Don’t just brush — brush effectively! Don’t just do a quick sweep of the teeth and call it a day. Remember to use your toothbrush to access the areas underneath the gum tissue and in-between the teeth. See Dr. Urban’s technique here!
Floss your teeth to reach the bits of food your toothbrush misses
According to the folks behind National Smile Month, fewer than 25% of adults use dental floss regularly. But it’s really important. Your toothbrush can’t reach everywhere, so floss helps get the food your toothbrush missed.
Use a germ-fighting mouthrinse approved by the ADA
The American Dental Association (ADA) finds that therapeutic mouthwashes can help control or reduce plaque, which can cause periodontal disease. Be sure to choose one that has the ADA Seal of Acceptance.
Use a xylitol-sweetened chewing gum
Many dentists recommend xylitol because it can literally starve the bacteria that cause gingivitis. Streptococcus mutans is the bacteria primarily responsible. While xylitol tastes sweet, the bacteria can’t use it for fuel like other sugars. The bacteria can’t form plaque, helping to prevent decay.
Eat a balanced diet
The ADA recommends a diet rich in nutritious foods such as low-sugar dairy, lean proteins and fruits and vegetables. All can help strengthen your teeth. And don’t forget water, especially fluoridated water, which can make teeth more resistant to the causes of cavities.
Visit your dentist regularly for professional teeth cleanings
There’s nothing like a professional cleaning to keep your teeth clean. Make sure to visit your dentist regularly so they can keep an eye on your teeth and check for any warning signs of disease.