It’s easy to think of dentistry as being all about the teeth, but the gums, in many ways, are the foundations upon which your teeth depend. They are just as important to your oral health as your teeth are. Unfortunately, most of us are dedicating a lot more time and energy to caring for our teeth than we’re dedicating to caring for our gums. If you’re worried that you may be neglecting your gums, where are four tips for keeping your gums in tip top shape.
Don’t Just Brush Your Teeth
We’ve done our gums a disservice by referring to brushing as “brushing your teeth” when in reality, some of your brushing should involve your gums! In fact, your brushing focus shouldn’t be the tooth itself, but the gum line, where food debris and plaque is more likely to collect. This is the danger zone for bacteria, and should be your top priority to keep clean.
Just be careful that you’re not over-brushing! Too-vigorous brushing, particularly when combined with a stiff toothbrush, can hurt your gums and even cause them to recede in the long term.
Floss, Of Course
We all know we should be doing it, but too many of us still aren’t: According to a 2014 survey, 60% of Americans don’t floss every day, and 20% don’t floss at all! Flossing is the single best thing you can do at home for your gum health. Flossing can clear food and plaque from areas of your gum line that your toothbrush can’t reach.
Not sure if you’re doing a good job? If there’s blood in the sink when you spit, your flossing game needs some improvement. If you find it hard to remember to floss at night (or to find the energy!) consider switching your flossing routine to the mornings, or even to lunchtime. It doesn’t really matter when you floss, as long as it’s at least once a day.
See Your Dentist Regularly
If you aren’t already seeing your dentist for regular checkups and cleanings, it’s definitely time to make that a priority. Even if you do your best to clean plaque off of your teeth at home, you’re only human, and you can’t get it all. Once plaque hardens into tartar, only your dentist can remove it. Plus, your dentist isn’t just cleaning your teeth; they’re also checking your mouth for signs of trouble. If you have a cavity, burgeoning gum disease, or even signs of oral cancer, your dentist will notice it during your checkup. They can also give you advice on where your at-home oral hygiene routines are failing, and help you fill in the gaps in your habits.
Watch Out for Gum Disease
The early symptoms of gum disease can seem pretty harmless, so it’s easy to dismiss them. But once it reaches the advanced stages, gum disease can have dire results. Advanced periodontitis can damage not just your gums, but your teeth, and even the supporting structures of your mouth. Early stage gum disease can be treated with thorough cleaning and a watchful eye, but advanced periodontitis may require surgery or gum grafts to fully correct.