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Gum disease today is less common than in the past. But it still affects nearly 1 in 10 American adults by the time they reach age 64. If you don't floss every day, and brush at least twice a day, you are at risk. Here's why you should care.

Healthy Gums and Your Overall Health

Many studies suggest that the health of your gums influences your overall health. For example:

  • Heart health: Moderate to severe gum disease has been shown to increase inflammation levels throughout the entire body. Some studies suggest that inflammation from severe gum disease may be linked to the risk of stroke as well as heart disease, which is also an inflammatory disease.
  • Lung health: Some research suggests that periodontal health may help promote lung health for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Periodontal disease can also increase the risk of respiratory infections such as pneumonia. This may occur from inhaling bacteria into the respiratory tract.
  • Nutritional health: If you lose teeth from gum disease, it may become harder to eat healthy foods such as crisp fruits and vegetables. Chewing problems can lead to poor nutrition, which, in turn, can cause other problems, including fatigue and dizziness.
  • Emotional health: Your smile is your calling card to the world. And most of us feel more confident when they have an attractive smile. But in the U.S. dentists pull 20 million teeth every year, according to the Academy of General Dentistry. And 86% of dentists say social embarrassment is one of the biggest problems people report after noticeable tooth loss.

9 Tips for Keeping Healthy Gums

So what do you need to do to keep your gums healthy? Here are the basics:

  1. Brush your teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste. Make sure to brush along the gum line in addition to your teeth.
  2. Replace worn-out toothbrushes at least every three to four months because they can injure your gums.
  3. Floss between teeth or use an inter-dental cleaner once a day.
  4. See your dentist for checkups and cleanings two or more times a year. If gums are bleeding, don't wait. See your dentist right away. If you have periodontal disease, the dentist or dental assistant can use deep-cleaning measures or apply antibiotics. If disease is advanced, surgery can clean badly diseased gum pockets.
  5. Keep your dentist up to date about any changes in your overall health, especially if you are pregnant or entering menopause, or have a disease such as diabetes. In these cases, pay special care to your dental health. You may be more susceptible to gingivitis.
  6. Limit sugary snacks and drinks.
  7. Eat a balanced diet. A recent study in men age 65 and older showed a special benefit to eating a diet rich in high-fiber fruit. This appears to slow the progression of periodontal disease.
  8. If you're a smoker, do everything possible to quit. People who smoke are more likely to have a buildup of plaque and tartar. In fact, smokers may be up to four times more likely to develop advanced periodontal disease than nonsmokers.

Antibacterial mouth rinses can reduce bacteria that cause plaque and gum disease, according to the American Dental Association.

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