I recently had our entire family in to the dentist for check-ups, and some of us came back with less than stellar reports. The dentist kept reminding me how important it is to floss to avoid cavities and also to maintain good gum health.
Healthy gums are really the cornerstone of a healthy mouth. According to the American Dental Association, almost 50% of Americans suffer from gum disease. Good oral hygiene, eating the right foods, and using supplements or supplement-enriched dental products can help keep gums – and us – healthy and happy.
Risk factors include:
• Immune deficiencies
• Defective fillings or bridges
• Pregnancy and oral contraceptives
• Dry mouth
• Poor dental hygiene habits
Gum disease starts as gingivitis and can lead to periodontitis. Plaque forms on teeth and gums daily, and if it is not removed, it hardens into tartar. Gingivitis begins when bacteria feeding on tartar cause infection where our gums attach to our teeth. Left untreated, gingivitis progresses to periodontitis, in which pockets of infection form between gums and teeth. The infection gradually breaks down the tissue and bones holding our teeth in place, making gum disease the main cause of tooth loss. Worse, recent studies suggest possible links between advanced gum disease and medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and stomach cancer.
There are some signs and early symptoms to check for, including:
• Changes in gum appearance – redness, shininess, or puffiness
• Frequent gum bleeding while brushing or flossing
• Constant bad breath
• Metallic taste in the mouth
• Tooth sensitivity or looseness
• Painful chewing
• Receding gums
The first line of defense is daily dental hygiene. Developing healthy dental habits is as simple as forming a regular routine, especially for young children.
• Brush the teeth and tongue twice a day, and floss.
• When flossing, make sure that you wrap the floss around the tooth and not just slide it in-between.
• Develop a routine to cover every surface of each tooth. My dentist recommends an electric tooth brush, and to go over each tooth.
• Pay special attention to the gum line where plaque and tartar form.
• Use a soft-bristled brush and non-fraying floss that won’t scratch the surface of the gums, allow bacteria to enter, or cause receding gums.
What you eat also plays an important role in maintaining a healthy smile. Not only will the following foods help with gum health, they also do a body good!
• Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (such as fatty fish, fish oil, and flaxseed) to reduce inflammatory response.
• Snack on crunchy vegetables and fruits with the skin intact, to scrub off plaque.
• Foods like dairy, meat, and nuts are high in calcium and phosphorus and may help remineralize teeth and bones.
• Avoid tooth-unfriendly foods high in sugars, simple carbohydrates, or stickiness, such as candy, baked goods, sweetened soft drinks, fruit juices, and dried fruit.
Supplements can also help support gum health. Studies have shown that people with lower dietary intakes of vitamin C, flavonoids, and beta carotene had higher incidences of periodontal disease. Other supplements and herbal preparations show promise in promoting gum health, targeting bad bacteria, reducing inflammation, or remineralizing teeth and bone when ingested or applied topically. A natural health care practitioner can help determine which supplements are best for you. Options include:
• Combination of calcium and vitamin D
• Coenzyme Q10
Rinses containing herbs and essential oils may help reduce plaque and gingivitis. Pathway GUM TONIC is a comprehensive mouth rinse that supports healthy oral hygiene. Swollen, bleeding, and receding gums may find benefit from this comprehensive herbal mouth wash. Pathway GUM TONIC strengthens gum tissue with its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and astringent properties. It also supports the production of saliva. Ingredients include goldenseal root, bayberry root bark, prickly ash bark, myrrh gum, and coptis root.