In this day and age, we spend a lot more time on our health than we used to. We go for a run, we are conscious of what we eat, we try to get our sleep, but what we don’t often remember to take extra care of is our teeth.
Brush your teeth twice a day and dental floss, yes, we know, Sarah, you don’t have to keep telling us. Well, same. But what I bet you didn’t know is that your gums are the root (literally) of your oral health. We spend a lot of time caring for our individual teeth. And while they are also extremely important (I mean, who doesn’t like to eat?), your gums hold your mouth together.
I sat down with Marquette University School of Dentistry’s Dr. Arndt Guentsch DMD to find out the real deal with gum health. Guentsch specializes and is most passionate about periodontology, which is basically the study of the structures that support the teeth and the diseases that affect them.
According to Guentsch, one of the keys to mouth health is systemic balance. This means, simply put, that all the parts of your mouth are doing their jobs correctly, all the parts of your immune system are doing their jobs correctly and all of the good bacteria in your body are doing their jobs correctly. Yes, that’s right, your body is covered in bacteria, but in this case, it’s all the good kind. Especially in your mouth, these bacteria live to fight off the bad stuff that can make you, your mouth or your gums sick. If another part of your body is sick, though, different factors can be out of balance and cause the good bacteria to over grow. This is usually what causes you to “get sick,” especially when it comes to oral diseases.
Guentsch mentioned that nearly half of all middle-aged Americans have some type of gum disease. The most common is gingivitis, but most are referred to as periodontitis regardless of the severity. Some of the first signs of periodontitis is swollen or bleeding gums. He also said that periodontitis increases a person’s chances of developing heart disease, having a stroke and even can be linked to birth defects if a woman is pregnant with periodontitis. Needless to say, these gooey-looking pink things holding our teeth in place are nothing to be ignored.
There are quite a few things that you can do, though, in order to prevent throwing off your body’s balance. According to Guentsch, one of the most important things is to brush your teeth correctly. Yup, you heard it here first, ladies and gentlemen. There is a RIGHT and a WRONG way to brush your teeth. Who knew? The most effective and healthiest way is brush in a circle, instead of back and forth. This prevents gum lesions and other inflammation that make gum disease more likely. Also going to get your teeth professionally whitened in place of using whitening strips can help prevent the onset of gum diseases. And then, as any dentist will tell you, regular use of floss and mouthwash can also reduce the chances of developing periodontitis.
There are many other online resources that you can check out in order to help maintain a healthy smile. Marquette also offers clinical hours at the School of Dentistry. Regular dentist checkups and cleanings can all help keep an eye on your oral health and help prevent future disease.