You take the time to brush and floss your teeth because you want a brighter smile. But how often do you think about ways to improve the health of your gums? Most people don’t realize that their gums play a vital role in the beauty of their smile.
If you don’t take care of your gums, several conditions could cause problems that will affect the look and feel of your entire mouth. Learn why gum health is so important and how to make your gums healthier in 5 minutes or less.
Why Do Gums Matter?
You’ve probably heard of gum disease, but do you really know what it is? This annoying infection can affect your teeth and all the surrounding tissues in your mouth. Because the disease doesn’t cause pain, many people don’t know they have it. So why does it matter? Gum disease is a leading cause of tooth loss in adults.
Gum disease occurs when plaque is not removed through proper brushing and flossing. You won’t feel any pain when you have gum disease so make sure you recognize the warning signs and get help if needed. The most common and well known form of gum disease is gingivitis. The condition involves the inflammation of the gingiva or gums surrounding the necks of the teeth, and is caused by plaque developing along the gumline. Symptoms include red and swollen gums, as well as gum bleeding, which can be seen on your toothbrush or at a dental exam.
The second-most common periodontal disease is “periodontitis.” Like gingivitis, it is caused by bacterial plaque, but it can cause loss of bone support within the teeth. It can be treated or prevented, but rarely can the damage be reversed. Periodontitis can occur if gingivitis is left untreated. Signs of periodontitis, like gingivitis, include red and swollen gums, and bleeding. The formation of gum pockets around the teeth may also occur, which is defined by an opening around the gum tissue of the teeth. This allows bacteria and the formation of tartar to get deeper under the gum line. This deepening of the pocket is associated with bone loss, and can lead to tooth loss if left untreated.
Talk to Dr. Jaleel, your Ottawa Nepean dentist or one of our fantastic dental hygienists during you visit about the presence of:
- Bleeding gums
- Red or swollen gums
- Bad breath that won’t go away
- Loose teeth
- Receding gums (gums that are pulling away from your teeth)
When gum disease becomes more advanced, it is called periodontitis. This condition can result in the development of periodontal pockets, swollen gum tissue, lose of bone that could lead to tooth loss.
Improve Gum Health
You can prevent gum disease with simple steps that take just a few minutes. Proper brushing and flossing techniques are essential. After you floss, follow these steps to brush both your teeth and your gums:
- Proper angle – Make sure you hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle towards the gumline.
- Short strokes – Move the brush back and forth in short gentle strokes brushing both the front and back of your teeth and gums.
- Use the tip – To get behind your front teeth, use the tip of the brush on the top and on the bottom teeth.
- Brush your tongue – Keep your mouth fresh by brushing your tongue.
And lastly, improve gum health and prevent tooth decay with regular visits to Dr. Jaleel!
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Have you ever wondered what makes up a tooth? Each part of a tooth has unique functions and properties. DO you know about enamel, dentin, cementum, roots and the root canal chambers inside the tooth? Damaged teeth, especially teeth with cracked or eroded enamel, are very susceptible to cavities. Advanced gum disease, another oral health condition that threatens tooth health, attacks the bone of the teeth and may cause tooth loss. Dr. Jaleel, your Ottawa Nepean Dentist is big on patient education. Helping you understand the function of each part of a tooth is an important component of oral health education for you and your family. So let’s get started!
Tooth enamel is a protective barrier that surrounds the visible part of the tooth. It is composed of strong minerals, including calcium phosphate. Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, and healthy enamel is resistant to cavity-causing bacteria. Because of its mineral composition, tooth enamel is translucent. Fortunately, enamel can be strengthened. Fluoride, a common mineral, helps replenish deficits in tooth enamel. Parents can help replenish enamel at home with Colgate®toothpastes that contain fluoride. Dentists also offer special fluoride treatments. These are commonly administered to children to help keep their teeth strong and free from cavities.
Dentin is found underneath the enamel surface of the tooth and underneath the cementum that forms along a tooth’s roots. Made of living cellular material and tissue, dentin is what makes up the majority of a tooth’s structure. Dentin is a bone-like substance that contains microscopic tubules. Unlike enamel, exposed dentin is highly susceptible to the bacteria that cause dental cavities and can cause tooth sensitivity.
Cementum is a coating that surrounds the roots of teeth and is similar to enamel, but softer. Cementum assists with root stability by attaching to the fibers that anchor the tooth in the jawbone.
Much as a tree’s roots help anchor it in the ground, a tooth’s roots anchor it in the jawbone. This allows teeth to withstand the force of biting and chewing food on a daily basis. One major threat to the health of a tooth’s roots is periodontal disease. This oral care disease is caused by bacteria in the dental plaque invading the gum tissue and supporting bone, thus leading to destruction of the bone holding the tooth or teeth in place. Tooth roots are integral to maintaining dental health. Even children can develop gum disease. Maintaining healthy oral hygiene practices — including thorough flossing and brushing — is an easy way to keep mouths healthy with home care. Regular dental cleanings for you and your family will also combat tartar and, ultimately, gum disease.
Root and Pulp Canals
Located inside the tooth in a hollow chamber is the root or pulp canal. A tooth may have one root and many premolar and molar teeth may contain two or three roots. It houses cellular material including pulp and the tooth’s roots. This area of the tooth is extremely sensitive and is responsible for providing the blood flow and nutrients that are necessary to keep teeth alive. When this area is damaged or infected by extensive decay and trauma, root canal treatment is often necessary to save a tooth from extraction.
Learning about the basics of tooth anatomy will help you understand how oral health conditions form so that you can teach your children healthy dental habits. Explaining the unique biological makeup of teeth to your kids can also be a fun and productive way to introduce biological concepts in an easy-to-understand format.
How to Treat Dry Mouth – At-Home Treatment
Treating dry mouth can reduce the likelihood of developing mouth sores, gum disease, oral thrush and tooth decay. Dr. Jaleel suggests the following general approaches to help treat dry mouth:
- Chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free candy to stimulate salivary glands
- Drink water regularly throughout the day
- Use over-the-counter artificial saliva
- Run a humidifier in your bedroom at night
Stimulating the salivary glands with sugar-free gum or candy is a useful treatment, if your salivary glands or the nerves that serve them are not affected. Since some causes of dry mouth simply reduce salivary production, stimulation will help increase the overall moisture level in your mouth.
Some dry-mouth sufferers wake up in the middle of the night with a sticky or dry feeling in their mouths, or even a feeling like the back of their throat is too dry to breathe. If you experience these symptoms, it could be because you are breathing through your mouth as you sleep. To alleviate this unpleasant situation, keep a glass of water bedside and run a humidifier in your bedroom. This is particularly helpful if you live in an arid climate. Drinking plenty of water can also keep your oral tissues moist throughout the day, which is also very important in dry climates.
(Source: BigStock Photos)
Avoiding certain foods and habits can also help to alleviate dry mouth. Make the following changes in diet and lifestyle if you suffer from xerostomia:
- Stop smoking
- Reduce or eliminate caffeine
- Use only alcohol-free mouthwash
Regular hygiene is also important to keep your mouth healthy, control acid levels and reduce side effects of xerostomia, such as gingivitis and bad breath. At the end of the day, make sure you are following Dr. Jaleel and our dental hygienists’ advice on proper dental care.
Dry Mouth Treatment from Your Doctor
If these methods do not provide sufficient relief, your doctor might prescribe medication to help your salivary glands function more efficiently. Prescription medications are often used to treat patients with underlying medical conditions that reduce saliva flow. These conditions include Sjögren’s syndrome, systemic lupus, and rhematoid arthritis.
Numerous medications cause dry mouth as a side effect. If you’ve just started a new medication and are suddenly noticing dryness, consult your doctor. Never change your prescription medication dosage without consulting with your doctor first.
Although teeth usually start the oral health show in your home, it doesn’t do well to ignore the other parts of your child’s mouth when learning how to stay healthy. After all, oral health also depends on keeping a healthy body, choosing the right foods and even ensuring the gums stay healthy as well.
Dr. Jaleel, your Ottawa dentist, has decades of experience working with children and new parents. She is here to provide you some ideas how to teach your child mouth anatomy in a fun and engaging way.
Mouth anatomy is about more than just teeth, and the more your child learns about the role his or her entire mouth plays on body health, the easier it is to promote good oral hygiene. Here are a few activities you can do together when talking about whole mouth health.
Mouth Self Portrait
Help your child get to know each part of the mouth. A mouth self portrait is a great way to see just what makes a mouth work the way it does. Grab a mirror, some crayons, a sheet of paper and a well-lit area. Here, have your child open up his or her mouth and peek inside. Talk about some of the things he sees: Not only teeth, but also the gums, tongue, the roof and bottom of the mouth. You can then challenge your child to draw and label those parts, creating a mouth anatomy that all kids become familiar with growing up.
Of course, oral health starts with dental health. When a child’s teeth are properly cared for, the rest of the mouth is healthy as a result. But because kids don’t always know the proper way to brush, try this: Sketch the shape of a tooth on a dark-colored piece of construction paper. Then, offer your child an old toothbrush and some white paint, challenging him to cover the entire tooth with their hand-drawn “toothpaste.” You can then demonstrate different techniques, like brushing up, down, sideways and in a circular motion to ensure the entire tooth is as white as the paper you started with.
Once you’ve practiced on paper, bring them to the sink to practice real-life brushing. Use a mildly flavored toothpaste to encourage a great experience your child will want to improve on again and again.
So much of a healthy mouth is what you put into it: Foods that are sugary, sticky or highly acidic can result in plaque buildup and even canker sores, so test your child’s knowledge on foods that are good for the mouth versus foods that could cause these problems. Start by gathering a few supermarket fliers and another piece of paper, labeling it, “Good Foods” on one side and “Foods That Can Hurt My Mouth” on the other. Then, help your child to cut out different foods from the flier and glue them to the appropriate side of the page. Talk about each food and why it’s either a good choice or something to save as a once-in-a-while treat.
The real fun is in taste tests. Your child’s tongue is covered in taste buds that allow him to savor the sweet and recoil from the bitter, so put it to good use by assembling sweet, sour, bitter and salty items from your kitchen. Talk to your child about how taste buds send messages to the brain so people can identify their favorite foods and avoid the items they don’t like. Keep a tally as you decide which category of flavor his taste buds indicate each food belongs in. Given the results, you may need to ensure they realize that tastes can be decieving; just because something tastes good doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
Adults know cavities can be damaging and painful, but children who’ve never experienced an early cavity might have a harder time understanding. Try this demonstration: Draw a tooth in permanent marker on a paper towel. Then, use a watercolor marker to place a dot on the tooth, explaining that a cavity is a small hole in the tooth. Drip a little water onto the “cavity,” showing the way it spreads when exposed to things like acid or sticky sweets.
With exercises like these, your child should quickly grasp how cavities and other dental conditions can infect the entire tooth if left unchecked.
Brushing your teeth is one major way to prevent cavities and keep those pearly whites looking beautiful. However, many of you might not be brushing your teeth properly. You may be surprised to learn you are making mistakes when brushing your teeth. Your oral health may be compromised if you are committing one of the following five toothbrushing mistakes.
Flossing after brushing:
Everyone should floss at least once per day. But if you’re flossing before you brush, you’re leaving stuff behind that could cause cavities. Even though flossing removes food and plaque that’s stuck between the teeth, it still might be hanging around in your mouth. Following two minutes of brushing with a good floss is the solution for a truly clean smile.
Brushing in straight lines:
Brushing in straight lines is great for some parts of your teeth, but not all. For the outer surfaces of your teeth, you should be brushing in circles in order to get the best scrub possible. For the inner surfaces of your teeth, brush in up and down motions. Finally, for the tops of your big back teeth, straight lines are the way to go.
Not brushing long enough:
You should brush at least two times per day, but after every meal is best. And each time you brush, you should do it for two minutes. Get a timer, and set it on your bathroom counter. It’ll help you make sure you’re sticking to the two-minute rule every time.
Using an old brush:
Toothbrushes need to be replaced about every 3 months. If the bristles of a toothbrush are bent, then it’s past time for a new brush. Why does it matter? Bent bristles just can’t clean the teeth as well as straight bristles. It’s as simple as that.
Using the wrong toothpaste: First things first, make sure you’re using a fluoride toothpaste. It strengthens the teeth and prevents cavities. Second, if you’re buying toothpaste for kiddos, get something fruity-flavored. Kids usually don’t like minty flavors, and might put up a fight if you ask them to brush with a toothpaste they think tastes yucky. Finally, if you have sensitive teeth, get a toothpaste with potassium nitrate. It’s proven to help with tooth sensitivity, and can make it easier to eat hot or cold foods.
If you’re guilty of one or more of these toothbrushing mistakes, you’re not alone. The good news is that now you know how to brush like a pro, and that’s going to go a long way in helping you have a healthier, happier smile.