Preventing gum disease

How to prevent gum disease

Because gum (periodontal) disease is usually painless and slow to progress, it can easily reach an advanced stage before you notice any problems. This can result in deterioration of gums and bone structure and eventually tooth loss.

Removing plaque through daily brushing and flossing as well as scheduling regular dental appointments for professional cleaning are the best ways to minimize your risk for gum disease. If necessary, your dentist can design a personalized program of home oral care to meet your needs.

Prevention starts at home

While regular dental exams are necessary to remove tartar and detect early signs of gum disease, oral health begins by properly caring for your teeth and gums at home. Here are some measures you can take to prevent gum disease and keep your teeth for a lifetime:

  • Brush for two to three minutes, at least twice a day, with fluoridated toothpaste. Be sure to brush along the gumline.
  • Floss daily to remove plaque from places your toothbrush can't reach. Don't like to floss? Try a floss holder, which can make it easier to insert floss between teeth.
  • Although not a substitute for brushing and flossing, a mouth rinse can reduce plaque up to 20 percent.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Starchy and sugary foods increase plaque, and only a healthy diet provides the nutrients necessary (vitamins A and C, in particular) to prevent gum disease.
  • Avoid cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, which may contribute to gum disease and oral cancer.
  • Be aware that certain medications can also aggravate gum disease, including oral contraceptives, antidepressants and heart medicines.
  • Exercise preventive care and schedule regular checkups — the surest way to detect early signs of periodontal disease.
  • Have your dentist correct problems, such as faulty fillings, crowded teeth or teeth-grinding.

When you visit the dentist

You should visit your dentist regularly to have your teeth professionally cleaned. Although regular brushing and flossing will keep plaque in check, only your dentist has the tools necessary to remove tartar (also known as calculus) that may have built up on your teeth. In addition, regular checkups can help your dentist monitor your oral health and identify and prevent problems before they require more comprehensive or expensive treatment.

  • Ask your dentist to discuss your gum health during your regular visit.
  • Ask your dentist to design a personalized program of home oral care to meet your needs.
  • Children also should be examined for gum disease.
  • Contact your dentist immediately if you experience any warning signs of gum disease such as red, swollen or tender gums, bleeding while brushing or flossing, gums that pull away from teeth, loose or separating teeth or persistent bad breath.

Related articles:

Information courtesy of the Academy of General Dentistry.
Last updated: April 2011

The oral health information on this website is intended for educational purposes only. You should always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.

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