First – why do healthy gums matter?
“When harmful bacteria build up around your teeth and gums, you’re at risk of developing gum disease, an infection in the gums and bones that surround your teeth. If left untreated, gum disease can escalate to periodontitis, a more serious form of the disease where gums can recede, bone can be lost, and teeth may become loose or even fall out. Moreover, the conditions in your mouth can influence the rest of your body. The mouth is the gateway to the body, and inflammation and bacteria in the gums can quickly enter the bloodstream and affect other parts of the body. For example, there’s a well-established link between gum disease and heart disease. People with gum disease have a three times higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke; and are believed to be at a higher risk for Alzheimer’s. Moreover, there’s a one-in-four chance that a pregnant woman with gum disease will give birth before 35 weeks.” – Dr Sulaman Anwar, specialist periodontist
What are the first signs of gum disease?
“Healthy gums shouldn’t be swollen or inflamed. They also shouldn’t bleed when you brush and floss, and shouldn’t feel sensitive or tender to touch when eating. Unhealthy gums can appear red and swollen, and you may also have bad breath or an unpleasant taste in your mouth. Healthy gums should appear firm and pink, although the shade can vary from one individual to another, depending on skin tone.” – Dr Reena Wadia, founder & principal gum specialist at RW Perio
How can it escalate if left untreated?
“In its earliest stages, gum disease causes red, swollen gums that might bleed when brushed or flossed. At this stage, gum disease is generally reversible with good oral hygiene and regular hygienist sessions. If, however, it’s left untreated, the inner layer of the gum can start to pull away from the teeth, forming pockets that collect debris and become infection. The body’s immune response to the infection starts to break down the bone, and at this stage irreversible damage to the gums may occur. At its most advanced stage, gum disease can lead to tooth mobility and eventually tooth loss. At any stage, having gum disease increases levels of inflammation in the body, which can raise the risk of heart disease and stroke, and increase blood sugar levels, leading to poor blood sugar control.” – Sulaman
Are some people more prone to gum issues than others?
“It goes without saying that those with poor oral health are more prone to gum issues. Studies show gum disease is increasingly likely in those who haven’t seen a dentist in more than two years. It’s also interesting to know that almost 50% of UK adults are affected by irreversible gum disease, so it’s important to see your dentist regularly – every three to six months is a good benchmark.” – Dr Julia Coelho, dentist & gum specialist
“Hormonal changes during pregnancy can make your gums more vulnerable to plaque, leading to inflammation and bleeding, making it a crucial time to regularly visit the dentist. This happens because the body produces more progesterone during pregnancy, which boosts blood supply to the mouth and makes the gums more sensitive to bacteria. If you are struggling with morning sickness, wait an hour before brushing your teeth to avoid acid damaging your teeth.” – Reena
“Smokers are at a significantly increased risk of gum disease. Smoking reduces blood flow and makes it easier for infections like gum disease to develop.” – Sulaman
Here, the experts share their top tips for healthier gums…
Eat A Balanced Diet
“Recent studies have shown strong links between nutrition and gum health. Eat more vitamin C-rich foods – citrus fruit, strawberries, broccoli and kale – for antioxidant properties and collagen synthesis, which is important for maintaining gum health. If you don’t eat enough vitamin C, you’re more susceptible to infection. Vitamin D also matters – it’s essential for supporting the teeth and aids the absorption of calcium. High-fibre foods stimulate saliva flow, which neutralises acid and cleanses the mouth. Cut back on sugar – harmful bacteria in the mouth feed on sugar and produce acid that irritates the gums.” – Sulaman
Brush Your Gums
“As well as brushing your teeth twice a day, it’s also important to brush your gums. Place your toothbrush at a 45º angle against the spot where the gums and teeth meet, angling upwards for the upper teeth and downwards for the lower teeth. Always use a toothpaste containing 1,000-1,500 parts per million (ppm) of fluoride.” – Reena
“Smoking is a well-known risk factor for gum disease. It reduces blood flow to the gums, weakens the immune system, and promotes the accumulation of plaque on the teeth, which affects their ability to fight off infection.” – Julia
Get Stress Under Control
“Stress weakens the immune system, making it less effective at fighting off infections – and that includes gum disease. Stress also triggers the release of hormones like cortisol, which promote inflammation throughout the body, including the gums.” – Julia
Floss Twice A Day
“You should be flossing ideally twice – and at the very least once – per day to remove plaque and particles from between the teeth and under the gumline where a toothbrush might not reach. If you’re not cleaning in between your teeth, you’re missing up to 50% of the tooth surface, effectively only cleaning half your mouth. And while floss is good, interdental brushes are the gold standard.” – Sulaman
Visit Your Dentist Every Three Months
“Studies show that those susceptible to gum disease should be seeing a dentist or hygienist every three months. If you are showing little to no signs of gum disease, the recommendation is once a year. However, regular check-ups ensure gum disease is picked up early, and prevention is better than cure, removing the risk of less invasive treatment.” – Sulaman
Don’t Rely On Mouthwash
“Some people mistakenly believe they can replace brushing or flossing with mouthwash. Over-reliance on mouthwash can mask dental issues and doesn’t remove plaque like brushing or flossing do. By all means use mouthwash, but as an adjunct to brushing and flossing, not as a replacement. Always use mouthwash at a different time to brushing.” – Sulaman
Don’t Ignore Bleeding
“While occasional gum bleeding can be due to vigorous brushing, consistent bleeding is typically a sign of gum disease. Always get it checked. At the same time, don’t avoid brushing or flossing areas where the gums bleed. In fact, regular and gentle cleaning of these areas is essential to remove plaque and halt the progression of gum disease.” – Sulaman
DISCLAIMER: Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.