You hear it every time you go to the dentist, and you likely heard it every day when you were growing up: You want to brush and floss daily to prevent gum disease. There is a good reason why you got this advice over and over again: It works, and you really do want to avoid gum disease. Gum disease is actually pretty common, especially in its milder form. But that doesn't make it something that's OK to have as it can progress and leave you with permanent issues. Preventing gum disease in the first place is the easier route to take.
Gingivitis and Periodontitis
Gum disease is usually divided into two or three stages. The first stage is gingivitis, which is a milder form that often manifests as reddened or inflamed gums that tend to bleed when you brush or floss. Gingivitis is fairly easy to reverse with good care; it takes some persistence and good-habit formation, but you can do it.
Then there's periodontitis, which is sometimes divided into periodontitis and advanced periodontitis. These are more severe forms that manifest as bleeding gums, inflamed gums, signs of infection, persistent bad breath, and receding gums, among other symptoms. In its advanced stages, periodontitis can lead to bone loss, which affects your bite and your ability to chew.
How Even Decent Oral Hygiene Can Prevent Gum Disease
The thing is, if you have healthy gums now, preventing gum disease with even decent oral hygiene is easy, for the most part. There are people with sensitive gums that are prone to developing gingivitis, and they need to be more careful, as do people taking medications that can have inflamed gums as a side effect. But for most people, brushing twice a day and flossing at least once a day – and getting twice-yearly dental cleanings – will go a very long way toward preventing gum disease. Using a therapeutic mouthwash also helps.
How to Improve Your Oral Hygiene
If you don't have the best oral hygiene right now, you can improve it. You want to aim toward brushing two to three times a day (basically, after every meal), flossing after you eat, using therapeutic or preventive mouthwash (not the stuff that's for fresh breath only), reducing your intake of sticky, sugary foods that can leave residue on your teeth, and seeing your dentist regularly.
Also, stop smoking if you currently do, because smoking can make it harder for your gums to fight off disease. Consider adjusting your diet to include more fibrous foods; these can help scrape other food residues off your teeth as you chew. As weird as that sounds, think about what chewing a carrot is like compared to eating caramel (in terms of texture), and you'll be able to picture what those fibrous foods can do.
You do need to be on guard against gum disease. It can sneak up on you and have some nasty effects. But preventing gum disease is not hard at all. Follow the standard advice to brush and floss, and see your dentist regularly, and you'll have some great odds in your fight to avoid gum disease.