If your gums are healthy, pink and clinging beautifully to your teeth, great, get to a dentist, anyway. Routine checkups every six months or so, as recommended by your dentist, will help prevent and demolish gingivitis. If you beat gingivitis, you won't have to fight periodontitis. If your gums are sore, red and not so healthy looking, get to a dentist right away. It likely won't be as bad as you think and it can save you considerable cost and chair-time later.
In either case, whether you have no symptoms or a lot of them, starting with clean teeth can get you back on track with daily oral hygiene. And before leaving the dentist's office, it may be a good idea to review hygiene 101. Many of us learn to brush our teeth and floss when so young that it's a wonder we had the attention span to take in all the details. No matter your age, having a hygienist or dentist show you the right way to brush and floss and to suggest products that will work best with your mouth specifically can reveal some surprising do's and don'ts or things you may just be doing all wrong.
Brushing at least twice a day -- or after each meal -- and flossing daily are generally the minimum interventions. Avoid brushing too hard, which can actually do more damage to gums than good by making them recede. Having a healthy diet of vitamin-rich foods also feeds directly into overall tissue well-being from the top down. Consulting a dentist as soon as any red flags or red gums appear can stop infection and keep it localized. Sometimes illness, medications and family history will trump preventative care and gingivitis and gum disease will be inevitable, but partnering with a dental professional and being extra diligent can prevent the worsening of symptoms and tissue and bone loss. And if tooth loss has already occurred, it's also important to stay in the battle and keep gums healthy enough to support dentures and other tooth restorations.
Taking several minutes two or more times a day for brushing, fiddling with floss for another few minutes once a day, and keeping those twice-a-year appointments for tartar removal can keep the relationship between your teeth and gums close, often for life.
More Great Links
- American Academy of Periodontology (AAP). "Gum Disease and Diabetes." Perio.org. 2011. (Nov. 4, 2011) http://www.perio.org/consumer/mbc.diabetes.htm
- American Academy of Periodontology (AAP). "Protecting Oral Health Throughout Your Life." Perio.org. 2011. (Nov. 2, 2011) http://www.perio.org/consumer/women.htm
- American Academy of Periodontology (AAP). "Types of Gum Disease." Perio.org. 2011. (Nov. 3, 2011) http://www.perio.org/consumer/2a.html
- American Dental Association (ADA). "Disease, Gum (Periodontal Disease)." ADA.org. 2011. (Nov. 2, 2011) http://ada.org/3063.aspx
- March of Dimes. "Your Pregnant Body: Gum and Teeth Change." MarchofDimes.com. 2011. (Nov. 3, 2011) http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/yourbody_teeth.html
- Mayo Clinic. "Gingivitis." MayoClinic.com. Nov. 8, 2010. (Nov. 2, 2011) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/gingivitis/DS00363
- Mayo Clinic. "Oral Health: A Window to Your Overall Health." MayoClinic.com. Feb. 5, 2011. (Nov. 2, 2011) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/dental/DE00001
- Mayo Clinic. "Periodontitis." MayoClinic.com. Nov. 23, 2010. (Nov. 2, 2011) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/periodontitis/DS00369
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). "Periodontal (Gum) Disease: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments." NIH.gov. July 2011. (Nov. 2, 2011) http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/Topics/GumDiseases/PeriodontalGumDisease.htm
- National Institutes of Health (NIH). "Gingivitis." NIH.gov. 2011. (Nov. 2, 2011) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001056.htm
- Nemours Foundation. "Gum Disease." KidsHealth.org. 2011. (Nov. 2, 2011) http://kidshealth.org/teen/diseases_conditions/mouth/gum_disease.html
- University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). "Periodontal Disease: Risk Factors." UMM.edu. Jan. 22, 2009. (Nov. 4, 2011) http://www.umm.edu/patiented/articles/who_gets_periodontal_disease_000024_4.htm