If you suffer from swollen gums or notice blood when you brush your teeth or floss, then you may have gum disease. If left untreated, the consequences of gum disease can be severe. Fortunately, most cases of early gum disease can be treated at home and the full progression of disease stopped in its tracks. Below is more information on the seriousness of gum disease and how you can treat it using some strategies you may not have considered:

Why is gum disease so serious?

Gum disease affects nearly half of all Americans over age 30, many of whom don't even know they have it. Officially known as a periodontitis, this condition is a silent stalker at first, causing no pain and few visible symptoms other than mildly swollen gums. However, its progression can cause receding gums, loose teeth, pain and even bone loss. Worse, gum disease is linked to other serious health problems such as cardiovascular and kidney disease.

Effective treatment of gum disease requires early intervention on the behalf of dentists and affected individuals. Most people understand the need to regularly brush and floss, but there are other things you can do at home to keep gum disease from taking a toll on your oral health. Below are a couple of strategies that you can adopt to keep gum disease from flourishing in your mouth:

Use the right toothbrush

It's not just enough to brush your teeth twice a day or more often, but you also need to use the correct equipment. Grabbing a random toothbrush from the rack at the pharmacy isn't going to provide you with the best chance to fend off gum disease, and it may even worsen the problem. Here are some characteristics of toothbrushes that are effective at fighting gum disease:

  • New - Toothbrushes are not meant to last forever. In fact, toothbrushes should be discarded and replaced approximately every three to four months, perhaps more often if they become worn out. A flattened brush-face simply will not stimulate your gums and is unable to reach into the crevices between your gums and teeth.

  • Clean - Once you buy a toothbrush, take a few minutes every week to keep it clean. The bacteria that contribute to gum disease can reside and thrive on your brush. That's why you should wash it regularly in warm, soapy water or soak it in hydrogen peroxide once or twice a week.

  • Soft - Unless recommended by your dentist to do otherwise, always choose a toothbrush with soft bristles. Hard bristles can damage your gums and teeth enamel.

  • Approved - Buy brushes that bear the seal of the American Dental Association (ADA). To earn the approval of the ADA, toothbrushes must meet certain criteria for safety and design. An unapproved brush may have loose bristles or be constructed of materials unsafe for use in your mouth.

  • Manual or electric - Studies have been conducted of electric toothbrush efficacy versus manual toothbrush, and the results have been generally mixed. It seems the most important factor isn't whether the brush is battery-powered or human-powered, but rather if it is used properly. Choose either type that suits your budget and personal preference.

Treat your gums by eating right

The proper diet can go a long way toward treating and preventing gum disease. There are several types of food that are associated with having a positive impact on keeping gum disease at bay. Below are a couple of the most promising food types:

  • Blueberries - A recent scientific study shows that blueberries contain potent compounds that can inhibit the growth of gum disease-causing bacteria and lessen gum swelling. These compounds, known as polyphenols, are also in other foods such as nuts, teas, other berries and a variety of vegetables. Consumption of polyphenols appears to be a good way to help prevent gum disease and provide other health benefits, too.

  • High calcium - Foods containing calcium are helpful in keeping bones and bony material, such as teeth, at their strongest levels. That's why consuming calcium is helpful in preventing gum disease from causing bone loss; high calcium foods include dairy products, such as cheeses which also provide a secondary benefit by attacking harmful oral bacteria, and leafy green vegetables. Products fortified with calcium are also helpful if you aren't able to consume enough calcium-rich foods on a daily basis.

Talk with a dentist from a clinic like Hurst Family Dental if you have specific questions about preventing gum disease.