As we get older, the health of our gums may, like the rest of us, decline and therein lies a problem – because if you want to keep your teeth, you need to keep your gums healthy.
Did you know that on average 25% of people in the United States over the age of 65 have NO teeth at all and they’ve lost them primarily due to gum disease? The trend of tooth loss associated with advancing age is expected to increase and, of course, where America leads, the UK tends to follow.
Gum health becomes even more of an issue for those of us going through the menopause when gum problems are more common due to the hormonal fluctuations we undergo. This is most commonly associated with changes in estrogen levels in the body and the natural ageing process.
Gum disease starts when plaque builds up under and along the gum line. Plaque is a sticky film-like substance that’s filled with bacteria. It can cause infections that hurt the gum and bone, leading to gum disease and tooth decay. The plaque also can cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease.
Symptoms of Gingivitis
- Red or reddish blue gums
- swollen gums
- bleeding upon normal brushing or flossing
If not treated, gingivitis progresses to a more serious advanced form of gum disease called Periodontitis. This affects the bones that hold your teeth in place and if you don’t treat it, it may ruin gums, bones and the tissues connected to your teeth.
Symptoms of Periodontitis
- Space between teeth where gums should be
- Gums have pulled away from your teeth
- Permanent bad taste in your mouth
- Bad breath
- Bone loss
- Excess tooth mobility
- Swollen, red, tender gums
- Gums that bleed easily
- your dentist can probe a depth greater than 4mm due to loss of connective tissue
The good news is that gingivitis does not necessarily lead to Periodontitis if you dramatically improve your oral hygiene (cleaning, flossing etc). A paper by the American Academy of Periodontology cites research back to the 1980s that proves “relatively few sites with gingivitis go on to develop periodontitis”.
Keep your gums healthy with these tips
So what simple steps can you take to keep your gums healthy? My number one tip is to make sure you visit your dentist regularly for a checkup. If your mouth needs attention you may be advised to see a dental hygienist who will give your teeth a good scale to remove calculus and plaque and show you have to brush properly and use floss correctly.
By the way, if you feel that your dental health has not been properly assessed by your dentist and your care has fallen short in any way, you may have a medical negligence claim.
1. Brush twice a day with a soft brush
2. Floss once a day
3. Use a fluoride toothpaste
4. Choose a gum-health mouthwash
5. Stop smoking
6. Avoid fizzy drinks and a high sugar diet (check out Ramiel Nagel’s book “Cure Gum Disease Naturally” for ideas on preventing and healing your gums with whole foods).
7. Increase your vitamin intake
- Vitamin A, crucial for healthy bones – gum recession is really bone loss in the jaw
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) – a lack of this causes hypersensitivity and erosion of the soft tissues of the mouth
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) – helps prevent gingivitis by helping your mouth produce a salivary enzyme amylase which breaks down refine carbohydrates such as white flour and sugar
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin) – a lack of this can lead to gingivitis
- Vitamin B9 (Folate) – some studies have linked a deficiency of Folate with periodontal disease
- Vitamin C – even a mild deficiency will contribute to periodontal disease. Signs of a Vitamin C deficiency include loose teeth without infection and bright red, swollen gums
- Vitamin D – without this vitamin we cannot utilize calcium well, nor maintain optimum levels of iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc.
8. Massage your gums by using the pointer finger on your dominant hand. Start at the bottom of your gums by applying slight pressure. Move your finger in a slow and circular motion along your gums. You should feel a little tension but not pain. If you do, stop right away.
9. Try oil pulling with sesame or coconut oil
10. Manage your stress
11. Get enough sleep
Keep your gums healthy at home
Sea salt mouthwash
At least twice a day, morning and night, rinse with warm salt water. Mix one-half to one teaspoon of salt with one cup of water and swish the water around your mouth for thirty – to sixty seconds.
Invest in a waterpik – an oral irrigator that will reach places regular flossing can’t. The pulsing of the water helps stimulate gums and improve circulation.
Herbs that may be beneficial for gum disease include white oak bark powder, echinacea, goldenseal, myrrh gum, chamomile, watercress and prickly ash bark.
It’s so easy to forget to make the effort to keep our gums as well as our teeth healthy but, by doing so, we can ensure we keep our teeth for longer and minimise uncomfortable mouth problems.
This is even more important for those of us who suffer from problems with the jaw and jaw joints (TMJ) and for whom preserving our current dental alignment and bite may mean the difference between occasional mild irritation and outright pain.
Lastly, there is little point, I always think, on investing in anti-ageing beauty treatments for our face and body, if we are not taking equal care of our teeth and gums.