White teeth and fresh breath are a dental care bonus, but the real payoff of proper daily cleaning and dental checkups is healthy gums. Healthy gums equal healthy teeth and a whole lot more.
“Up to 80 percent of the population unknowingly has some form of gum disease,” says Dr. Pankaj Singh, founder of NYC’s Arch Dental Associates. “Gum disease causes little discomfort and produces few obvious symptoms in the early stages. But we consider gum disease a problem that can affect the whole body.”
Indeed, gum disease — also known as gingivitis — is linked to increased risk for stroke, heart attack, preterm births, diabetes complications, Alzheimer’s and dementia. “We must address gum disease as a serious, whole health concern,” urges Dr. Singh.
Also, a thorough visual exam of the mouth guards against oral cancer. Warning signs of the disease include sores, blisters, white and red patches in the mouth or on the lips and bleeding in the mouth.
“Its probable cause is accumulative damage from such factors as tobacco, alcohol and viral infections such as HPV,” says Dr. Irwin Smigel, president of the American Society of Dental Aesthetics. And here’s another reason to put out your cigarette: “Smoking kills the mouth’s important tissue cells.”
Dental dos and don’ts
Thorough brushing means using the right tools and the correct technique. Many dentists recommend electric toothbrushes, which clean teeth and gums without harsh scrubbing. “The right toothbrush can mean the difference between getting a thorough cleaning or damaging your enamel,” advises Dr. Smigel, who developed the Supersmile Advanced Sonic Pulse Toothbrush, which delivers 30,000 strokes per minute that clean and massage the gums, increasing blood supply. But the bottom line, advises Dr. Smigel, is brushing twice daily for a full two minutes each time without hard scrubbing. “Placing too much pressure on our teeth can wear away at the tooth enamel, which causes pain [and] sensitivity, as well as an increased risk of tooth decay.” So be gentle!