When most people think of dental health they think of their teeth and not their gum health. However, taking care of your gums is also critically important. In the Unitied States, close to half of all Americans suffer from some sort of gum disease, the two most common diseases being gingivitis and periodontitis. Both are caused by a bacterial infection to your gums. 

“If left untreated, not only can your gums be affected, but you could eventually end up losing teeth,” said Dr. Tony Thomas, lead dentist at Advanced Smile Care in North San Antonio. “In fact, the average 60 year old is missing approximately eight teeth, primarily from gum disease,” said Dr. Thomas. 

Here are four ways you can avoid the effects of this mouth-altering illness.

#1 Gum disease can affect your overall health

It is widely known that your oral health is connected to your overall physical health, and vice versa. The same rule applies when it comes to gum disease. Dr. Thomas said, “That is why it is very important to keep on top of your gum health to keep your body as healthy as possible.” The bacteria in your mouth have properties that can bypass the blood-brain barrier, which can contribute to life-threatening diseases such Alzheimer’s Disease, oral and pancreatic cancer, heart disease, and even increase the possibility of suffering a stroke. 

#2 Symptoms to keep an eye out for

Before gum disease takes a firm hold on the health of your mouth, there are several symptoms that you can watch out for. “Being vigilant is key when combatting gum disease,” said Dr. Thomas. Symptoms include red, puffy, swollen, or tender gums, bleeding caused by brushing or flossing, receding gums, gaps in the gum line where they have separated from the teeth, and any sign of infection including pus, pain, or a bad taste in the mouth, including bad breath. If you notice any of those signs contact your dental provider immediately.  

#3 Who is at the greatest risk of gum disease?

Like many other diseases, gum disease also has specific groups of people who are more susceptible to contracting the illness. “Having good nutritional habits such as cutting back on sugar, drinking lots of water, and regularly eating yogurt, apples, and other healthy options can go a long way to keeping gum disease at bay,” said Dr. Thomas. United Concordia Dental says smokers and smokeless tobacco users should consider quitting because tobacco increases the risk of gum disease and makes it harder for damaged tissue to heal. Diabetics also need to be vigilant in keeping an eye out for gum disease, because high sugar levels heighten the risk of gum disease. 

#4 Taking care of your gums on a regular basis

When it comes to your gums, you need to take care of them daily and regularly to keep them in tip top shape. “When you go through your daily brushing and flossing routine, you need to keep your gums in mind too,” said Dr. Thomas. You are missing 35 percent of your tooth structure if you only brush your teeth and not any part of your gums. That is over a third of your mouth! Would you only wash your arms if you were to take a shower? 

When brushing your teeth, gently brush the gums at a 45 degree angle, and also to floss or use a water pik to remove the bacteria and foods that get stuck between the teeth and gums. By leaving that food residue in your mouth, it could decompose and cause not only bad breath but also gum disease. 

“Also very important, do not skip out on regular dentist appointments which you should be keeping up with at least twice a year,” said Dr. Thomas. At Advanced Smile Care, we exame your gum health every time you see us for a hygiene visit. We check the pocket depth around your teeth and we X-ray your teeth to give us a more comprehensive look at the potential for gum disease which can alter your life more than many people might suspect.