After my dentist explained the signs and risks associated with gum disease (like the link between periodontal disease and heart disease), I realized how important it was to focus on my teeth and my gums when brushing and flossing. Here's why.
"Periodontal disease — commonly referred to as 'gum disease' — is a general term used for gingivitis, which is inflammation of the gums, and periodontitis, a loss of supporting structure around the tooth, mainly ligament and bone," explains Phong Ta, a dentist based in New York City.
The primary cause for these conditions? Bacteria. "The mouth is home to thousands of species of bacteria that thrive in the dark, moist environment in and around your teeth," says Ta. "Bacteria, along with a variety of proteins, form a film on your teeth called dental plaque. Toxins from these bacteria start to break down gum tissues, and in turn, the body responds to this attack with an inflammatory response, which is why you get red, swollen gums."
Healthy gums, he adds, are light pink and firm; with gingivitis, gums can become red, swollen, and tender, "and bleed easily when brushed, flossed, and touched."
To heal inflamed gums, maintain twice-daily flossing and use mouthwash after brushing your teeth. The good news is that gingivitis is reversible, and gums affected by it can be restored to robust, pink health.
To reduce and remove bacteria, Ta says you can go the mechanical route with an electric toothbrush (the Philips Sonicare DiamondClean toothbrush is a good one). Then floss and rinse with a mouthwash that contains bacteria-killing ingredients (all part of your white teeth regimen, anyway!).
Finally, regular dental cleanings are a must. "You can't eliminate all the bacteria in your mouth, but you can reduce their levels so they are less harmful," he says.
Read more articles on how to get white teeth, naturally:
- 6 Of The Best Teeth-Whitening Kits In The Drugstore
- We Put 9 Fast-Acting Teeth Whiteners to the Test—Here's What Happened
- Your Toothbrush Could Be Staining Your Teeth
Now, learn how to get softer lips while you're sleeping:
Originally Appeared on Allure