5 Simple Steps for Preventing Gum Disease

            You might have heard the term gum disease thrown around at the dentist’s office, or mentioned when people discuss the various ailments that can befall you if you don’t take care of your health. But have you ever considered the serious threat that it poses, or how easily gum disease can sneak up on you? Gum disease is a bacterial infection that causes chronic inflammation in your body, leading to potentially severe health consequences not only for your oral health, but for the health of your whole body. That’s why it’s crucial to stay informed about what it is and how you can fight it off. Today, we’ll provide you with five simple steps that can help you prevent gum disease and keep your teeth and gums safe.

  1. Brush according to ADA guidelines
  1. Floss at least once a day
  2. Rinse with mouthwash
  3. Know your risk level
  4. Schedule a comprehensive periodontal evaluation

Gum disease comes in two forms. The first form is gingivitis. In this stage, the gums will likely become red and swollen and may bleed easily. If left untreated, gingivitis progresses into periodontitis. This severe form of gum disease can make the gums so loose that teeth even fall out.

Gum disease in either form is a serious problem, and it can happen to anyone. According to Penn Dental Medicine, periodontitis is the most common cause of teeth falling out.  Not counting wisdom teeth, the average person ages 20-39 is missing one tooth, the average 40-49-year old is missing 3.5 teeth, and those aged over 60 are missing 8 teeth. The most common culprit? Gum disease. The CDC reports that nearly half of adults over 30 in the US have some form of periodontal disease. Clearly, Americans are struggling to maintain healthy gums. With all of this mind, let’s dive into our five simple steps for how you can avoid that statistic.

1. Brush Your Teeth in Accordance with ADA Guidelines

We all brush our teeth—hopefully. Brushing your teeth is essential for fighting gingivitis, periodontitis, as well as maintaining your overall oral health. But you should know that more goes into brushing your teeth than a couple of quick scrubs. 

When brushing your teeth, make sure that you’re:

  • Keeping the brush head at a 45-degree angle to your gums
  • Use gentle strokes back and forth
  • Brush the outer, inner, and chewing surfaces of your teeth
  • Hold a vertical angle with up-and-down strokes when brushing the inside of your teeth
  • Brush for two minutes twice a day

It also matters that you don’t use just any old toothbrush. When choosing a toothbrush, look for one with: 

  • Soft bristles
  • Rounded bristles
  • ADA approval

Adults, you’ll want to pick one with a brush head that’s one inch tall and half an inch wide. Next time you see the dentist, you can discuss with them whether they think an electric or manual toothbrush would be better for you, as there’s not an official ADA mandate. If you have kids, you can also ask the dentist what toothbrush they recommend for your child.

2. Floss at Least Once a Day

Like brushing your teeth twice a day or two minutes, flossing at least once per day is another basic part of oral hygiene that will help protect your mouth from gum disease. Many people either forget to floss or simply choose not to do it. They see it as an inconvenience or an annoyance. While this view is understandable, it fails to see the long-term consequences that choice will have.

Flossing is incredibly important since it reaches places your toothbrush can’t—namely, between your teeth. When you floss, you’re removing food particles and bacteria that would otherwise turn into cavities, gingivitis, and eventually periodontitis. If you haven’t been in the habit of flossing, it might feel like a hassle to start, or even intimidating, like you just don’t know how! In reality, it is a simple process that reaps bountiful rewards for your health. To floss, you simply: 

  1. Cut around 18 inches of dental floss from the spool
  2. Wrap each end around your middle fingers
  3. Hold the floss tightly between your thumb and index finger
  4. Leave about an inch of space between them
  5. Gently slide the floss between your teeth and hold it tightly to the side of one tooth
  6. Slide the floss up and down as you press it gently against your tooth

If you’re still intimidated or struggling, try searching up a YouTube video that can demonstrate it for you. Your dental hygienist would also be more than happy to show you the next time you have an appointment. The importance of flossing can’t be stressed enough. By getting yourself and your family in the habit of flossing, you’ll be setting yourselves up for a lifetime of gum disease-free oral health!

3. Rinse with Mouthwash

While rinsing with mouthwash is not necessary, it is beneficial for those looking to go the extra mile in securing themselves against dental health problems. Mouthwash is a liquid that you swish in your mouth to kill any harmful bacteria that brushing and flossing may miss. You can think of it as the cherry on top of the oral health sundae. Depending on the brand’s formula, it can kill unhealthy bacteria, prevent cavities, and even freshen your breath.  

While the specifics of how to get maximum benefit may vary from rinse to rinse, in general, you’ll want to:

  1. Brush and floss first
  2. Pour the recommended amount into the cap or a cup
  3. Swish for the recommended amount of time
  4. Gargle the mouthwash for around 30 seconds
  5. Spit, not swallow!

If you want to go the extra mile to prevent gum disease, mouthwash is a great tool. Talk to your dentist or hygienist if you’re not sure what to choose. They’re sure to have great suggestions for your oral health goals. You may want to keep in mind that water can also serve similar goals of flushing out harmful debris and rinsing away plaque. Staying hydrated is another way to reduce your risk of gum disease while serving your health in countless other ways.

4. Know Your Risk Level

How have nearly half of Americans adults developed gum disease? Does no one brush their teeth? That’s not necessarily the answer. The truth is that your chances of developing gum disease depend on more than not brushing or flossing properly. You may develop gum disease due to factors partially or entirely outside your control. While poor oral health is a major reason for developing gum disease, your risk is also impacted by:

  • Genetics
  • Stress
  • Age
  • Tobacco use
  • Medications
  • Poor nutrition

This is not necessarily an exhaustive list. For instance, if you have a health problem that interferes with your body’s inflammatory system, such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or cardiovascular disease, this could serve to spike your risk. Next time you’re at the doctor, speak with them about how your health conditions and family history may impact your risk for gingivitis and periodontitis.

5. Schedule a Comprehensive Periodontal Evaluation

Starting in 2011, the American Academy of Periodontology began recommending that all adults get a comprehensive exam to evaluate their periodontal (aka gum) health. A comprehensive periodontal evaluation (CPE for short) looks at your:

  • Gums
  • Teeth
  • Bone structure
  • Plaque buildup
  • Risk factors

Working with your dental health team, you’ll be able to catch gum disease before it starts or stop it from spreading. With nearly half of the American population suffering from some form of gum disease, this extra step is wise.

What we’ve seen today is that gum disease is a much bigger threat than we might be prone to think. Fortunately, by following these five simple steps, you can reduce your risk of falling into that 47% of adults who suffer from the disease. That looks like following ADA guidelines when it comes to brushing and flossing, using mouthwash to rinse out anything you might have missed, communicating with health professionals to understand your risk level, and having a comprehensive periodontal evaluation to ensure that your gums are being taken care of. If you have questions about any of this or need to schedule your next appointment, please contact our office today.

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Our team has over 30 years of combined experience in the field of dentistry and a passion for educating our patients on the importance of good dental hygiene. To learn more about them, please visit our team page 

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