Tips to keep your gums healthy

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 a 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 saltwater. 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.

keep your gums healthy - sea salt in a bowl

Water flossing

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.

Go herbal

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.

Related posts:

Problems With Your Teeth – I’m Going Dental

40% of Brits don’t brush their teeth at least once a day

Problems With Your Teeth? I’m Going Dental …..

As Pam Ayres famously said in her poem “Oh I wish I’d looked after me teeth”. You know there comes a time when you have to at least acknowledge that your various bits and pieces might not be in the first flush of youth. I have had endless problems with my teeth and my jaw. It probably started when I had impacted wisdom teeth removed under anaesthetic when I was 15.

problems with my teeth - woman having a dental checkup

In my view, it was a completely unnecessary procedure and my poor parents were badly advised. Since then, my jaw clicks and I have a bite so sensitive to changes in my mouth that the slightest high filling makes me feel like I’m chewing a brick.

So now I also seem to be clenching my teeth and the pressure is such that parts of my back molars have actually split off. I am hooked on sensitive toothpaste (thank you Sensodyne) and try to avoid foods that might crack my teeth. It’s taken me years (I’m not joking) to eat crisps after a bit of my tooth fell off whilst eating a ridged crisp. And as for chocolate covered Brazils! Forget it. Objects of terror.

At night I have a mouth guard, lovingly crafted by the Jaw Clinic at the University of Wales Hospital in Cardiff. Slight overtones of pugilism and a slightly drooly start to the day. I also have to regularly visit the dentist for check ups; good and reliable ones like are certainly helpful in my case.

I’m not sure I can even be accused of poor dental hygiene, being a regular cleaner and flosser.  As I sit occasionally transfixed by life’s flotsam and jetsam on Jeremy Kyle (don’t judge me..) which now seems to have become the benchmark of the Nation’s poor dental health, the questions I have to ask myself are i) do people not realise how much poor teeth affect the way they look and ii) what on earth has happened to dentistry in the UK? It is clear that the reduction in the provision of adequate NHS dentists is having a serious knock-on effect on people’s teeth and, at the same time, their overall health.

It may be vaguely amusing to titter at the latest gap-toothed, black stumped participant but how on earth did we get to this? I pay for a dental insurance scheme and, by the time I’m 70 will probably have coughed up enough for a Mediterranean cruise.

The chance of finding an NHS dentist for many are, I suspect, slim and the ability to pay for a dental insurance scheme, a luxury compared to, say, coping with ever-increasing utility bills.

My two children are taught dental hygiene and, due to my sensitive gnashers, they were exposed to toothpaste and one of those strange finger puppet tooth cleaning thingummybobs as soon as the merest speck of a tooth appeared.

My father has dentures.  He had poor teeth and when he joined the Royal Navy a condition of his appointment was that all his teeth were removed. He’s never looked back although he frequently mutters about pips under his plate and it does take a while to get used to a new set.

As kids, we had endless fun when mum’s back was turned and dad would shoot his bottom set out of his mouth in a very impressive gurn. He’s never used them to crimp the edges of the pastry of an apple pie but it’s the sort of thing he’d consider for a laugh.

Perhaps Corsodyl has got it right.  I’m sure you know the advert where the beautiful woman’s teeth bleed as she brushes them and at the end of the advert she reveals she is missing a canine tooth.  It’s not the snappiest catchphrase – “Corsodyl, for people who spit blood when they brush” but, by heck it’s honest.

Perhaps the dental industry should concentrate less on the promotion of bright, white smiles and more on the true consequences of poor dental health.  Mind you, that would probably put you off your popcorn. (No I can’t eat that either).

So that’s the story of the problems with my teeth. Tell me, do you have similar dental trials and tribulations?  I’d love to hear.