Taking good care of your teeth and gums isn't just about preventing cavities or bad breath. A healthy mouth, leads to a healthy body.
The mouth is filled with many bacteria. Some of these bacteria are linked to tooth decay and periodontal or gum disease. Periodontal disease may be connected with diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Gum disease is an ongoing inflammation caused by bacteria that live in plaque. The bacteria in plaque irritate the gums, making them red, tender and likely to bleed. This condition is called gingivitis.
Gingivitis can be reversed if you remove plaque before it builds up. You can do this by brushing twice a day, flossing daily and having your teeth cleaned regularly (every 6 months) in the dental office.
If you do not get rid of gingivitis, it can turn into an infection in the spaces between the teeth and gums and around the teeth. It can damage the attachment of the gums and bone to the teeth. It can even lead to bone loss. If you go without treatment at this stage, your teeth may become loose, fall out or need to be removed by a dentist.
If you notice any of these signs, see your dentist:
gums that bleed during brushing and flossing
red, swollen or tender gums
gums that have pulled away from your teeth
bad breath that doesn't go away
pus between your teeth and gums
loose or separating teeth
a change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
a change in the fit of partial dentures
Keeping your teeth and gums healthy is very important.
Brush your teeth well twice a day. In addition, you should floss or use another between-the-teeth cleaner once a day. Consider also using an antimicrobial (germ-fighting) mouthrinse every day.
Schedule regular dental visits. Professional cleanings are the only way to remove tartar, which traps plaque bacteria along or below the gumline.
Tell your dentist about changes in your overall health, like any recent illnesses or ongoing conditions. Provide an updated health history including medication use-both prescription and over-the-counter products.
Don't smoke or chew tobacco. If you use tobacco, talk with your dentist about options for quitting.
Manage dry mouth. Too little saliva in the mouth can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Many medicines cause dry mouth. If you think you may have dry mouth, talk with your dentist about ways to manage it.