All too often, people who are committed to improving their dental health focus on protecting their teeth - but neglecting the delicate gum tissue that supports and frames their smile. While overlooking gum health is easy to do, your gum tissue helps to create a beautiful appearance, while simultaneously creating a barrier that protects the deeper structures of your teeth from bacteria.
Here are two easy ways to take better care of your gums so they continue to support your dental health.
By the time you are finally ready for bed, the last thing you might feel like doing is carefully flossing your teeth. Unfortunately, skipping the dental floss could be a recipe for disaster for your gum health. As you consume foods and beverages throughout the day, microscopic food particles can gather near your gumline and between your teeth, fueling oral bacteria.
While most people understand that oral bacteria can emit acids that fuel dental decay, a commonly overlooked fact is that bacteria also emits enzymes, toxins, and antigens that irritate the gum tissue, making the tissue red, irritated, swollen, and prone to bleeding.
Over time, the tissue can become irritated enough to start to recede from the gumline, paving the way for gum disease and deeper infection.
However, when you floss, you help to remove these fine particulates from between the teeth, helping the tissues to stay healthier. In fact, one study that followed sets of twins found that the sibling who flossed in addition to brushing had 38% fewer areas in their mouth that bled easily.
If you struggle with traditional flossing, try updating your dental hygiene tools by trying other flossing methods. In addition to string floss, you could also try using flossing picks or water irrigators, which use a thin stream of water to blast grime away from between the teeth.
While snacks can be a healthy part of your diet, they can also damage your gum tissue if you aren't careful. Oftentimes, people reach for crunchy, crispy snack foods like popcorn, tortilla chips, or pretzels, while these foods can be some of the most dangerous items for your teeth and gums.
Both tortilla chips and pretzels can snap at sharp angles, putting your gum tissue at a higher risk for laceration and infection. Additionally, both snacks contain high levels of starches that fuel oral bacteria, potentially increasing your risk of developing cavities.
However, the villain in the snack world is popcorn, which typically contains hardened kernels with papery coverings. Munching on a hard kernel could cause a dental fracture that could introduce bacteria and infection to your gum tissue. Additionally, the papery coverings of kernels can easily lodge between your teeth and gums, where they can create micro-tears in the tissue and spark an infection.
These infections can result in an abscess, especially since the kernel coverings can be incredibly difficult to remove once they have slipped down into the pocket around the tooth.
To stay on the safe side when snacking, stick with fresh fruits and vegetables or items completely free of hard, sharp edges. For instance, kernel-free popcorn varieties could help you to protect your smile during a movie, and a plate of sliced apples could introduce your teeth and gums to beneficial fiber instead of extra salt and starch.
Whether you have noticed a few changes with your gum tissue or you are simply due for a dental checkup, our dentist, Dr. M. Dawn Harvey, DMD, PC, is more than happy to help.