How can I prevent gum disease?

Gum disease is treatable and even reversible. Diligent attention to the formation of unhealthy (smelly, sticky) dental plaque, a sign of an unbalanced oral biofilm, should be regarded as the beginning of a process that can save your life and add years to your lifespan.

Here are my 4 cornerstones to maintain oral health:
  1. Brush and Floss Regularly -- Okay, I said it -- but eliminate harsh, detergent-based toothpastes and alcohol-based mouthwashes which have been shown to disturb and denature the natural ecology and important bacteria that live in the mouth. GO NATURAL and gentle. One of my favorite natural secret weapons for oral health is neem bark products. The twigs were traditionally used for tooth-brushing in India and Asia. Neem bark (also a powder or oil) has polysaccharides in it that have been found to have pH-balancing, anti-inflammatory and even anti-cancer properties.
  2. Good Nutrition -- Follow my "A-list" nutrition: foods which are antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory, and alkaline-forming. This diet is rich in green leafy veggies, fresh juices, colorful berries, and organic protein. It is low in sugars, artificial sweeteners, and refined carbohydrates that promote a more acidic environment.
  3. Manage Stress -- A damaging influence in most of the body, stress is a killer to your mouth as well. It results in a decrease in the flow of protective saliva which increases your risk for both gum disease and tooth decay. Stress also causes parafunctional oral habits such as clenching and grinding of your teeth, which can damage your teeth, jaw joint (TMJ), and dental work.
  4. Get Regular Exercise -- A good fitness routine, both aerobic and non-aerobic exercise, is essential for oral health, promoting a better circulatory system, and a stronger and more competent immune system as well. A number of studies have found that runners have a low incidence of gum disease for these very reasons.
You can help prevent periodontal (gum) disease by taking good care of your teeth every day and having regular dental checkups. Here's how to keep your teeth and gums healthy:
  • Brush your teeth well twice a day -- This removes the film of bacteria from the teeth. Be sure to use a soft-bristled toothbrush that is in good condition. Toothpastes and mouth rinses containing fluoride strengthen the teeth and help prevent decay. Choose products that bear the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance, your assurance that they have met the ADA's standards for safety and effectiveness. The American Dental Association reviews all advertising claims for any product bearing the Seal. The Seal on a product is an assurance for consumers and dentists against misleading or untrue statements concerning a product's safety and effectiveness.
  • Clean between your teeth every day -- Cleaning between your teeth with floss or interdental cleaners removes bacteria and food particles from between the teeth, where a toothbrush can't reach. Early periodontal (gum) disease can often be reversed by daily brushing and flossing. If you use interdental cleaners, ask your dentist how to use them properly, to avoid injuring your gums.
  • Eat a balanced diet -- Choose a variety of foods from the basic food groups, such as breads, cereals and other grain products; fruits; vegetables; meat, poultry and fish; and dairy products, such as milk, cheese and yogurt. Limit between-meal snacks.
  • Visit your dentist regularly -- It is important to have regular dental checkups, and professional cleaning is essential to prevent periodontal diseases.

Preventing Gum disease can be as easy as having good oral home care between dental visits or can be difficult if linked to a health condition like diabetes. It is best to have continuous care with your dentist so that your home care can be monitored and frequently evaluated.

Carol Jahn
The way to prevent gum disease is two-fold. First, you want to have a good relationship with a dentist and dental hygienist and see them on a schedule that they recommend for exams and cleanings. Second, you need to practice good home care. This involves brushing twice daily and cleaning in between your teeth once daily. If you find flossing difficult, and many people do, there are other products available that have been shown to work as well and may be easier for you to use. These include floss holders, interdental brushes, and a Water Flosser.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.