Healthy Gums, Sparkling Smile

cosmetic dentistWhen you think of a bright smile, you usually think of your teeth or veneers and how white they are. You might want to think about your gums, too. Without healthy gums, you cannot have healthy teeth.

“Gingiva” is the medical name for gums. They are living tissue that runs from the inside of your cheeks to your teeth. They seal around the bottom of your teeth to protect the roots of your teeth from the scrubbing action of food as it is chewed.

How do you know your gums are healthy? “Look for pink, firm gum tissue,” says Dr. Carol Ford from her Phoenix dental office. “They aren’t puffy, red, and they don’t have small pits around the teeth,” she explains, adding, “And healthy gums don’t bleed, not even when you brush them.”

Your gums can become infected without you noticing it, warns the Mayo Clinic. Gums don’t have to hurt to be in danger.

When your gums become infected, it’s called gingivitis. The most common way for gingivitis to start is poor tooth brushing habits. Not brushing your teeth twice a day is one way you can encourage infection. Not brushing your teeth long enough or the right way is another way. Not flossing is probably the most common way.

“Bacteria builds up between your teeth,” says Dr. Ford. “If it’s not removed, it grows and attaches itself to your teeth and forms plaque. Once the plaque is not removed for a day or two, it hardens into a white material called tartar,” explains Dr. Ford. “And tartar has to be removed by a hygienist.”

Factors that increase your chances of gingivitis (other than not brushing and flossing) include using tobacco, poor eating choices, and ill-fitting dentures. There are other factors that are not in your control—getting older, having diabetes, or hormonal changes during pregnancy.

“Your best plan to keep your gums healthy is to brush and floss and see your dentist regularly,” says Dr. Ford. If your gums are painful or bleeding, don’t put off calling the dentist. Gingivitis is common, and finding it early and taking steps to heal it will keep your smile bright and ready to use.

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