6 surprising reasons you shouldn’t overlook gum health
From possible tooth loss to breathing complications, here’s why you need to protect your gums today
Consider your gums
When you think of oral hygiene, do you consider your gums? “In most people’s minds, tooth brushing is focused on teeth and prevention of decay,” says dentist Robert MacGregor of Kentville, Nova Scotia. “But it’s equally important to prevent gum disease,” he says.
Periodontal or gum disease is more common than you think. The Canadian Dental Association estimates that as many as four out of five Canadians will experience gum disease. Furthermore, gum disease will become more of a problem as we get older. That’s because our gum health today depends on how well we’ve been caring for our gums all our lives.
Gum disease usually happens because of a build-up of plaque in the space between the teeth and gum tissue. If plaque isn’t properly cleaned away, it hardens over time and causes inflammation of the gums. This can lead to infection and shrinking gum tissue. If that isn’t enough to convince you to take better care of your gums, here are six more good reasons:
Reason 1: It’s difficult to detect gum problems
There may be no pain or other symptoms when gum disease is in its early stages. Unfortunately, that makes it harder for you to know what’s brewing inside your mouth.
Reason 3: Protect your pregnancy and baby
Studies show that pregnant women with progressive gum disease are more likely to develop gestational diabetes, deliver pre-term or have a low-birth-weight baby.
Reason 4: Help your heart
Gum inflammation has been shown in several studies to raise your risk of heart disease and stroke. This is thought to be because gum disease increases the inflammation throughout your body, which is known to lead to cardiovascular disease.
Reason 5: Ease your breathing
Because people with periodontal disease have more bacteria breeding in their mouths, they’re more likely to inhale germs that can lead to lung infections like pneumonia. For those who have pre-existing lung problems like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), gum disease may make it worse.
Reason 6: Control your blood sugar
If you have diabetes, you’re more at risk for developing periodontal problems according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. But the good news is that getting your gum disease under control can actually help control your diabetes.
Not convinced yet? We may discover even more links between our gums and other health conditions in the future. “There’s more research coming out all the time,” Dr. MacGregor says. Experts say the best way to prevent problems is to brush and floss the gum area properly and thoroughly.
– Don’t brush too aggressively, and always use a soft-bristled brush. Hard brushing can cause your gums to recede.
– Be sure to schedule regular dental check-ups. An oral health professional can see things you can’t.
– Try to keep stress under control. Stress increases the risk of infection, including infection of the gums.
– Avoid tooth grinding or clenching. This bad habit can wear out your gum tissue at a faster rate.
– If you smoke, stop. Smokers have a higher risk of periodontal disease.
– Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. A body stoked with good nutrition can help fight infection.
“Good oral hygiene is the number-one rule,” says Dr. MacGregor. “If you can control the plaque, you’re going to control inflammation of gums. And if that’s controlled, you’re going a long way to prevent periodontal disease.”