So, the thing everyone seems to want to talk about is their pearly whites. People want bright, shiny white teeth that you can see from outer space. Your gums are far less glamorous and hardly anyone asks me anything at all about their gum health, so I’m here to champion the gums because in terms of your overall body health, they’re WAY more important than their much more glamorous cousins, your teeth.
Your gums are one of the most common sites of chronic infection. Gum disease and gingivitis sound like they shouldn’t be a big deal for your body but the truth is that they are behind many of the major health risks. If your gums are chronically infected then your body is always using precious resources to try to fight that infection. That means you have less of those resources – energy, nutrients and immunity – to use in other places. Gum disease poses a very serious threat to your body and it increases the risk of:
- Heart attack by as much as 25%
- Preterm, low birth weight babies
- Digestive disorders
- Pancreatic cancer
- Respiratory disease
- Immune dysfunction
- Uncontrolled diabetes (it doesn’t cause diabetes, but makes diabetes that is there much harder to control)
All of that from gingivitis! It’s important to note that although it’s commonly called “gum disease” that it actually harms far more than your gums. The term periodontal disease is more accurate because that means disease around the teeth, but gum disease is just easier to say and more widely used. This type of problem effects the gums, ligaments and bone. If something was attacking the tissue, ligaments and bone of your leg, for example, you’d do everything you could to stop it. This is just a less noticeable place. Still, gum disease is attacking the tissue, ligament and bone of your mouth – it’s no less important.
Essentially the bacterial infections travel down into the spaces between your teeth and gums. The more bacteria there are, and the longer they’re left to grow and breed, the further into your body they can travel. From there they can infect the ligament holding the tooth into your jaw and travel into the bones of your face. The more bacteria get between your teeth and gums, the more your gums are damaged and eaten away and pockets begin to form. These pockets are great places for bacteria to hide out and so the process becomes more serious.
There are lots of contributing factors to gum disease – general health, genetics, age, lifestyle, stress, smoking, lack of dental care, etc… but by far the biggest and most changeable factor is your oral hygiene. The best news is that starting now with good oral hygiene can make a tremendous difference, even if you haven’t paid much attention to your teeth before now. In terms of your gum health, the best tool in addition to brushing and flossing would be a water-pik or oral irrigator of some kind. These are used to shoot water between the gum and tooth to clean bacteria out of those pockets and help your body to heal.
Please keep in mind I’m not a dentist or dental specialist, but this seems to be a good place to start. Check with your dentist for any fine-tuning that you may need for you. Also, when you brush your teeth, don’t forget to also gently brush your tongue and gums to get rid of bacteria there too.
Here’s my tooth-care schedule:
Breakfast: Floss and brush
Snack: I’d love to say I actually brush here, but usually I just use mouth rinse, swish (see below) or chew gum
Snack: Same as the above snack
Before bed: Floss, brush, water-pik with plain water or water and mouthwash
It is most important to do a complete care in the morning and in the evening because lots of bacteria can build up overnight. The rest of the day the more you can do, the better, but it’s hard to water-pik at work so realistically do what you can. Anytime after you eat if you can take the time to add flossing into the routine, you should. If you can’t take the time, like most people then brushing, using something like tooth swish or even chewing sugar free gum will help.
Being a natural product freak, I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you:
Here’s Dr. Tung’s Smart Floss – I honestly never thought I’d be excited about floss in any way because really it’s all the same, except it’s not. This one is thicker than normal and stretches into a thick ribbon that gets hidden gunk out of there easily and it has the loveliest hint of cardamom flavor – sometimes it’s the simple things that make you happy… Thanks Amy Love for sharing this one with me!
Tooth brightener. Because who doesn’t want a brighter smile? Just one or two uses a week. AWESOME!
Tooth soap. This one defies explanation except to say that it’s soap, for your teeth. I’m pretty sure once you start with this there is no going back to regular old toothpaste. It’s all natural, organic, good for teeth and gums and completely different from the usual routine! And thanks Jenny for getting me hooked!
Tooth swish – for when you don’t have time to brush. Another totally indescribable experience – it’s citrus-y, salty goodness that cleans and nourishes your teeth and gums.