But how do you go about doing that?
You can start by not adding fuel to the fire:
If you smoke or use tobacco, quit. It’s the number one risk factor for periodontal disease and tooth loss.
Make sure you get 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep each night. If you brux (clench or grind your teeth) during sleep or suspect you may have sleep apnea, talk with your dentist about solutions so you can get a good night’s sleep. Research suggests that lack of sleep may be second only to smoking as a risk factor for gum disease.
If you eat a lot of sugar, flour-based foods, and other refined carbs, cut back on them. Gum disease is marked by chronic inflammation, and these foods make inflammation worse.
Evaluate the stress in your life and take steps to bring it under control.
Then there’s the matter of oral hygiene.
According to new research in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, even just tooth brushing can make a difference. Participants who reported brushing at least twice a day were found to have deep periodontal pockets on about two fewer teeth, on average, than those who brushed less.
Those pockets deepen as the disease process causes the gums to pull away from the teeth. With healthy gums, the natural space between the gums and teeth – the sulcus – is one to three millimeters deep. Neglected, the spaces get even deeper, allowing more room for harmful bacteria to colonize and thrive.
Once this happens, tooth brushing can only be a partial help. At this point, additional tools such as floss and oral irrigators are needed to control the pathogens harbored within the pockets.
All of these are also tools that you can use right now to keep gum disease from developing in the first place.
Flossing is basic, but it needs to be done correctly in order to make a difference. And if your gums bleed, that’s all the more reason to get diligent about flossing. That bleeding is a sign of gum disease.
If you don’t like to floss, try cleaning with interproximal brushes instead. These small brushes fit between your teeth and are great for cleaning at the gum line.
You can also use these “proxy” brushes to apply ozonated oils to your gums. These oils are commonly made by infusing medical grade ozone into an organic oil such as olive, sunflower, coconut, hemp, or castor. Ozone is a powerful disinfectant that’s ideal for controlling oral pathogens. (We use it in a wide variety of ways here in our office!)
Oil pulling can be a helpful addition to your daily hygiene routine. A simple swish of a tablespoon of coconut oil every morning for 10 to 15 minutes before you brush can have a positive impact.
Oral irrigators such as Waterpiks have also proven quite helpful for keeping the gums healthy. Antimicrobial botanical tonics can even be added to the water to enhance their cleaning power. (The Dental Herb Company’s Under the Gums Irrigant is one good option.)
In addition to amped up hygiene, a few nutritional changes can have a big impact, as well. It’s not just about avoiding the harmful stuff but making sure you get the full complement of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients your body needs to function as designed.
Also look to getting more movement into your daily routine. Research has consistently shown that exercise helps lower your risk of gum disease, as well as reduce chronic inflammation in general.
Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet against gum disease. But working a variety of the above tools into your daily health routine will take you far in keeping perio problems at bay, keeping your smile healthy and whole.