Healthy gums: A key to overall health

Incisive Bite

by Dr Sharon Robinson

Sunday, October 22, 2017

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YOUR oral health is an important part of your overall health, and that includes maintaining strong and healthy gums.

Certain habits are beneficial to the improvement of the health of your gums, and it starts and ends with brushing and flossing.

Here's how to identify the characteristics of healthy gum tissue and maintain good oral health in the process:

How to recognise healthy gums

Healthy gum tissue has specific characteristics. The colour of healthy gum tissue can vary, but it is typically coral pink or a darker hue within this pigmentation (variations in pigment are relative to your ethnic background).

Healthy gum tissue is not inflamed, and therefore feels snug and natural around your teeth. The shape of gum tissue typically looks knife-edged or pyramidal, and follows a curved line around the tooth. Healthy gum tissue generally has a firm texture and may or may not have a stippled appearance on the outer gum — like the outside of an orange. Lastly, there is no spontaneous bleeding with healthy gums.

What causes unhealthy gums

Bacterial plaque is the primary cause of periodontal (gum) disease or gingivitis. The gum tissue generally responds to bacterial plaque with inflammation, which usually develops when there is an invasive amount built up against the gum line. When bacterial plaque is removed, the inflammation is reversed.

Other factors that can lead to advanced gum disease include: age, stress, genetics, smoking or tobacco use, medications, obesity, poor nutrition, or simply grinding and clenching your teeth — specifically while you sleep. There may also be a relationship between periodontal disease and systemic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

Common warning signs

There are several signs and symptoms that you may notice or feel which can indicate early or advanced stages of gum disease: Red, inflamed or tender gums; gums that recede from the teeth; pus when pressing against the gums; permanent teeth that are loose or separating; any change to your natural bite; noticeable changes in the fit of your partial dentures; bad breath.

Irritated gums also commonly bleed with brushing and flossing, but don't ditch these habits altogether. Changing the way you clean your mouth on a daily basis can actually improve its effectiveness against gum disease.

Healthy brushing

There are several healthy habits that you can use to improve or maintain healthy gums. Brushing at least twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush will help to control bacterial plaque that can accumulate in your mouth. Position it at a 45-degree angle toward the gum line when you brush the front and back surfaces of your teeth. Your stroke movement against the teeth should be a short and gentle in a back-and-forth motion.

Correct Flossing

Flossing at least once a day to remove bacterial plaque and food debris will help to prevent gum disease while curbing tooth decay and bad breath in the process. The floss should be inserted between your teeth using gentle force. It is important to curve the floss in a “C” shape around each tooth, moving it against the tooth and below the gum line in an up-and-down motion. Then a new section of floss should be inserted between each tooth so you don't put germs back into your mouth.

Visit your dentist regularly

It is important to make regular dental check-ups at least twice a year, but don't wait until you feel pain. Generally, by the time you feel irritation, your gums will already have an infection or be in an advanced stage of gum disease.

Talk to your dentist about your oral health; he can examine your gums to identify signs of unhealthy gums. Your dentist's office can also recommend oral health products that are most effective in meeting your specific needs. And, of course, your dental hygienist should give you a professional cleaning to remove bacterial plaque and calculus (tartar), which traps bacterial plaque around and below your gum line.

Dr Sharon Robinson DDS has offices at the Dental Place Cosmetix Spa, located at Shop #5, Winchester Business Centre, 15 Hope Road, Kingston 10. Dr Robinson is an adjunct lecturer at the University of Technology, Jamaica, School of Oral Health Sciences. She may be contacted at 630-4710. Like their Facebook page, Dental Place Cosmetix Spa for an opportunity to take advantage of weekly specials.

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