Gum Disease Prevention: How to Care for Your Teeth & Gums

A family brushing their teeth in the bathroom

When you meet someone new, your smile is one of the first things they see. A great smile makes you more approachable and can help you establish yourself as a friendly person who gets along well with others. Healthy teeth also maintain the shape of your mouth and make it easier to eat a balanced diet. If you have missing teeth or infected gums, it can be difficult to chew a variety of foods, leading to digestive problems and nutritional deficiencies. With preventive dental care, it's possible to keep your teeth looking good and functioning properly.

Preventive Dental Care at Home

Good dental health starts with caring for your teeth and gums daily. When you brush and floss, you remove the bacteria responsible for bad breath and the development of plaque, a sticky substance that can harden into tartar. Plaque reacts with foods and beverages by producing acids, increasing your risk of gum disease and tooth decay.

Brushing Technique

The first step in home preventive dental care is to brush your teeth twice per day with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Using a brush with stiffer bristles can irritate the gums and increase the risk for tooth decay, which is why using a soft-bristled brush is so important. Soft bristles are also more effective for cleaning hard-to-reach areas of the mouth.

When you brush, hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and use short strokes. Be sure to get all three surfaces of each tooth: the front, the back, and the chewing surface. To clean the backs of your front teeth, hold the brush vertically and move it up and down instead of from side to side. Spend at least two minutes brushing to ensure you clean your teeth as thoroughly as possible.

Avoid These Brushing Habits

A poor brushing technique has been linked to gum irritation, enamel erosion, and other dental problems, so avoid the following when you brush your teeth:

  • Using too much pressure: Brushing too hard can lead to gum damage, increasing your risk of gingivitis.
  • Brushing immediately after eating: It's natural to want to get rid of food particles right away, but you should wait 30 to 60 minutes after eating, especially if your meal contained acidic foods. When you brush right away, you risk spreading acidic food particles around your mouth, increasing the risk of enamel erosion. While you wait, rinse your mouth with water to get rid of any large food particles.

To ensure brushing is as effective as possible, replace your toothbrush every three to four months. You may also want to consider using an electric toothbrush instead of a manual one. An electric toothbrush with an oscillating head does a much better job of cleaning the teeth than a manual toothbrush that only moves in one direction.

Flossing Technique

Flossing is a critical component of any preventive dental care routine. When you floss, you have the opportunity to remove food particles and plaque that were left behind by your toothbrush, further reducing your risk of gum disease and other dental health problems. Flossing also makes your teeth look brighter, improving the overall appearance of your smile.

Vector image on how to floss properlyAs with brushing, the technique you use for flossing makes a big difference in how effective it is. The American Dental Hygienists' Association recommends taking 18 inches of floss and wrapping it around your middle fingers. This should leave about 1 to 2 inches of floss for cleaning between your teeth. Insert the floss between two teeth, wrap it around the side of the tooth and move it up and down to remove as much plaque and food debris as possible. Repeat this process until you have cleaned the sides of every tooth.

Dietary Habits

The old saying "You are what you eat" isn't far off the mark when it comes to your dental health. To prevent enamel erosion and keep your teeth as healthy as possible, you need to be careful about what you eat and drink. Coffee, tea, red wine, acidic fruits, tomato sauce, energy drinks, and dark soft drinks can all stain the teeth, making your smile a little less bright. Consuming these items in moderation can help you avoid permanent stains. If you just can't live without an occasional cola or glass of red wine, there are a few things you can do to prevent staining:

  • Use a straw to keep beverages from coming into contact with your teeth.
  • Rinse your mouth with water as soon as you consume one of these foods or beverages.
  • Brush your teeth about an hour after eating to prevent stains from forming.

Tobacco Use

If you smoke or chew tobacco, one of the best things you can do is quit. Not only does tobacco use increase the risk of lung cancer, heart attack, and other serious health conditions, but it can also lead to oral cancer, severe gum disease, and tooth loss.

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 40% of adult tobacco users between the ages of 20 and 46 have untreated tooth decay. Even more concerning is the fact that people who smoke are three times more likely to lose all of their teeth than people who don't. If you have trouble quitting on your own, talk to your doctor about taking medication or using a nicotine patch to reduce cravings.

Professional Dental Care

Good dental care starts at home, but it doesn't end there. Even if you brush twice per day, floss daily, and avoid stain-causing foods, you need to see a dentist regularly. Dentists have tools to remove plaque that may have been missed during brushing, making it easier to maintain your overall dental health.

A dentist also has the professional training needed to identify early signs of gum disease, oral cancer, tooth decay, and other dental problems. It's much easier to treat a dental problem in its early stages than it is to treat an advanced dental problem, making it extremely important to see a dentist every six months. Depending on what your dentist finds, you may need to see a periodontist—a dentist who specializes in preventing and treating gum disease.

Schedule an Appointment

If your general dentist has advised you to schedule an appointment with a periodontist, call Baton Rouge Perio at (225) 396-4587 to find out more about our services. Dr. Markle and Dr. Herman have extensive experience helping patients with gum disease improve their dental health.

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Baton Rouge Perio

10723 N. Oak Hills Parkway, Building B
Baton Rouge, LA 70810

Tel: (225) 769-1444
Fax: (225) 769-9939

Baton Rouge Periodontists, Dr. Kenneth Markle and Dr. Jenny Herman, provide a variety of surgical and non-surgical services for the treatment of periodontal issues. We pride ourselves on the fact that we are very conservative in our treatment recommendations and limit surgery to the areas where it is absolutely necessary.

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