September is Gum Care Month!
Master gum health while indulging your sweet tooth
The modern world offers our mouths much to water over: decadent espresso martinis, mega-buckets of movie popcorn, and 24K gold-coated steaks (yum?). Although a consistent oral care routine can prepare any set of chompers for casual indulgence in the sweet, salty, savory, and spicy delicacies of our time, even the most experienced brushers may not realize how their lifestyle choices impact one very integral part of their mouths: their gums!
This National Gum Care Month, we'll delve into the importance of maintaining healthy gums and how they can protect your whole body from damage and disease. Don’t worry, we won’t ask you to skip out on this year’s creamy pumpkin spice cold brew 🤤. Instead, we'll serve up our own tips, tricks, and insights — like what’s best for your mouth, floss string or a water flosser? — to help you savor every bite and sip, all while keeping your gums in tip-top shape. With expert guidance from Mikaela Quintero, RDH (our in-house dental hygienist!), let’s discover exactly why your gums deserve just as much love as your teeth and taste buds.
Gums: the glue that holds it all together
Gingiva is the soft, pink tissue that cushions your teeth and jawbone. You know this as your gums, which are a part of the oral mucosa, the scientific name for the soft lining covering your inner cheeks, lips, tongue, and floor of your mouth. Gums protect the teeth’s sensitive roots from stimuli like temperature and pressure, and may act as a seal to keep food particles and bacteria from entering the bloodstream. Curious about the current state of your gums? Take a look in the mirror.
Healthy gums are typically firm and pink, but can go lighter or darker depending on the melanin in your skin. Bright red gums could signal a buildup of plaque, AKA gingivitis. Using your tongue to swipe over your top and bottom gumlines, do you feel any stinging? Citrus fruits and spicy foods can temporarily irritate your gums, but consistent pain could be your mouth crying for help: “Easy on the acid!” Lastly (and discretely), catch a whiff of your own breath. If it’s kickin’ hard, you could have halitosis, a tell-tale sign of gum disease. We hope your gums are doing fine, but don’t fret if you’ve got some concerns — nearly half (46%) of all US adults over 30 show some signs of gum disease. Not the best stat, but luckily, you can easily mend and tend to your gum health — starting with a glass of water.
Hydration and daily hygiene 101
DYK sugar, coffee, and smoking actually dry out your mouth? Our RDH, Mikaela, recommends swishing H2O to counteract dehydration immediately after indulging. If you struggle to drink enough water, try adding fruits or fresh mint to your glass. Another way to combat dryness is by chewing sugar-free Gum to stimulate fresh saliva production. Dry mouth = bacterial growth, the gateway to gum disease, so hydration needs a spot on the frontlines of your dental defense. Paired with daily hygiene and routine cleanings, drinking about 8 glasses of water a day helps make you an at-home gum care pro.
…speaking of daily hygiene, don’t forget to floss! Picks and string have long been touted as trusted gum care tools for their ability to flex along the gumline and between teeth. However, the rapid rise of the popular Water Flosser has many wondering if it’s time to swap their string for a steady stream of H2O. While we recommend finding the method that feels most comfortable for your mouth, our research shows that the quip Rechargeable Cordless Water Flosser removes over 99% of plaque in treated areas!* That’s some serious plaque slayage. Ultimately, the choice is yours — we just want you to floss (but the 360° rotating tip is pretty cool, huh?).
*Independent laboratory study. Go to getquip.com for details.
Strike a deal with your sweet tooth
You've likely heard warnings about the harms of excess sugar since your first Halloween, but what's not as commonly explained is which foods are truly beneficial for your gums. Turns out, there are specific vitamins and minerals that help your blood absorb the nutrients in your food — without enough of them in your system, even a perfectly balanced diet can potentially lead to sick gums! Dairy foods such as yogurt, milk, and cheese fuel your body with calcium, while following up with some quip Mints (rich in Vitamin D) can help your body absorb it.
The nutritional value of the foods you eat isn’t the only thing to look out for — texture and temperature can also help or majorly hurt your gums! When you chew hard foods like candy or ice, you run the risk of experiencing tooth fractures (ouch!) that can irritate your gumline. The same caution should be exercised with extra-hot foods and beverages. If you’ve ever bitten your cheek, you know just how sensitive the oral mucosa can be. Iced antioxidant-rich mint tea or chamomile can help alleviate swollen gums, along with fibrous foods like celery and apples, which stimulate blood flow and help the oral mucosa repair itself. See how your gums are literally designed to support your oral health?! Pretty cool.
Gum disease leaves a serious mark, but so does your oral care routine
Now that we’ve reviewed all the ways that hydration, oral hygiene, and diet can protect your gums from disease, let’s cover what can happen when we throw caution to the wind and ditch preventative oral care. Over time, plaque can build up around the gums, bringing on the first stage of gum disease: gingivitis. Bad breath, bleeding gums, and swelling are followed by a receding gumline, which happens as the gums weaken and pull away from the teeth, no longer protecting their roots (owww). Unfortunately, gums can’t grow back on their own, so professional treatments like antiseptic medication or surgical grafts may be required to repair damage and avoid permanent tooth loss.
Luckily, there’s always help available, and a periodontist (dental pro specializing in gums) will be able to provide guidance for every individual mouth. Getting professional dental attention when needed can even be life-saving, as gum disease has been linked to more serious conditions like Alzheimers. In a study published earlier this year, researchers learned that the bacteria in gum disease can actually damage and penetrate the blood-brain barrier, a thin wall that protects your brain from absorbing toxins in the body. Whoa! That’s not great news, but an important discovery in mapping causes of neurological illness and raising awareness around the importance of gum health.
Give it up for your gums!
Let’s end on a silver lining — or should we say a strong, healthy, pink lining? Research has concluded that periodontal disease is not hereditary! Not a single gene has ever been proven to have as large an impact on gum health as daily habits and lifestyle do. This shows that a commitment to gum care can really set you up for a lifetime of good oral health. By taking preventative measures, you're not just preserving your smile, but contributing to your overall quality of life. So go ahead, savor a bag of your favorite gummy treats, in honor of our mouth’s gummy-guardian. Just promise us you’ll clean up after :) Cheers!