5 lifestyle changes for treating and preventing gum disease

November 4, 2015

Good dental hygiene will reverse most cases of gum disease (gingivitis). The most important thing is to brush your teeth two or more times daily to remove soft plaque before it hardens.

5 lifestyle changes for treating and preventing gum disease

Brushing properly

Be sure to brush first thing in the morning, because the reduced flow of saliva at night gives bacteria a chance to multiply.

  • To get the most out of brushing, start with a dry brush.
  • One study found that dry brushing, followed by brushing with toothpaste, reduced plaque deposits by 67 percent.
  • Old-fashioned toothbrushes work fine, but electric toothbrushes (such as Sonicare and Interplak) can be even more effective at removing plaque.

Picking the right toothpaste

Also, use a toothpaste that’s approved by the Canadian Dental Association (CDA).

  • The best ones contain fluoride, a mineral that inhibits bacteria and strengthens tooth enamel.
  • The only toothpaste that has been approved by the CDA for treating gum disease is Colgate Total.
  • Along with fluoride, it contains triclosan, a germ-killing compound that remains in the mouth after brushing.

Flossing regularly and using mouthwash

Don't forget to floss your teeth before brushing.

  •  Flossing removes plaque between the teeth, where a brush can't reach.
  • Waxed and unwaxed flosses are equally effective, but you'll want to avoid too-thin flosses: they can cut into the gums and cause bleeding.
  • If the spaces between your teeth are too tight to admit regular floss, try Gore-Tex floss. It slips easily between the teeth and is unlikely to break or fray.
  • If regular brushing and flossing don't eliminate gum disease, your dentist may recommend rinsing with an antibacterial mouthwash.
  • The popular mouthwash Listerine helps reduce plaque.

Eating and drinking a healthy diet

What you eat and drink also plays a role in controlling gum disease.

  • Drink at least eight glasses of liquids a day. It increases saliva flow and reduces inflammation and plaque buildup.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet — and be sure to include plenty of fruits and vegetables. They're rich in Vitamin C, a nutrient that promotes gum health and healing.
  • A report in the Journal of Periodontology found that people who don't get enough Vitamin C are almost 1.5 times more likely to develop gum disease than those who get the recommended 75 to 90 milligrams daily.
  • You'll definitely want to avoid sugary foods. They make the mouth more acidic and promote bacterial growth.

Quitting smoking

Finally, quit smoking.

  • It increases gum inflammation by over-stimulating the immune system.
  • One study found smokers 11 times more likely to harbour harmful oral bacteria than non-smokers.

A few more common questions

Q: Will a tongue piercing damage my teeth or gums?

A: It may.

  • A study in the Journal of Periodontology, which looked at 52 young adults, found that 35 percent of those who had worn tongue jewelry for four or more years had receding gums.
  • The bigger the jewelry, the bigger the problem: large objects in the tongue are more likely to exert damaging pressure on the gums.
  • Researchers also found that 47 percent of those with barbell-style tongue jewelry also had chipped teeth, probably because they tended to bite the metal.
  • Because of these and other risks — infection and a loss of sensation — tongue-piercing isn't recommended. If you decide to get it done anyway, see your dentist regularly in order to identify and correct potential problems before they get more serious.

Q: Is gum disease contagious? 

A: It could be.

  • Researchers have found that the bacteria P. gingivalis can be transmitted from an infected person to another through intimate contact over a long period of time.
  • If you are being treated for gum disease, restrict kisses to quick pecks until your dentist or periodontist gives you the all clear.

Not only is gum disease a large problem in itself, poor oral hygiene can cause a number of other risks to your health -- especially heart disease. Following these simple tips is sure to reduce your risk for gum disease, plus you'll have a pearly white smile and great breath!

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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