You usually can prevent gum disease by brushing and flossing regularly, having regular dental visits for exams and cleaning, and eating a balanced diet.
Practice good dental habits:
* Brush your teeth two times a day, in the morning and before bedtime, using fluoride toothpaste. Clean all sides of your teeth, and also brush your tongue. Plaque on the tongue can cause bad breath and is an ideal environment for bacteria. If you can't brush, chew sugar-free gum, especially one with xylitol.
* Try an electric toothbrush that has a rotating and oscillating (back-and-forth) action. This type of toothbrush is better at removing plaque than a regular toothbrush.5 Look for one that has the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance.
* Use an antiseptic mouth wash, such as Listerine, or a fluoride or antiplaque mouthwash.
* Floss once a day. Any type of floss works, so choose a type you like. Curve the floss around each tooth into a U-shape, and gently slide it under the gum line. Move the floss firmly up and down several times to scrape off the plaque.
* Use disclosing tablets periodically so you can see if you are brushing effectively. Disclosing tablets are chewable and will color any plaque left on the teeth after brushing. They are available at most drugstores.
* See your dentist regularly as recommended to have your teeth cleaned and checked.
If your gums bleed when you brush or floss, the bleeding should stop as your gums become healthier and tighter to your teeth. However, bleeding gums may be a symptom of gum disease and should be brought to the attention of your dentist.
Making wise food choices can help you prevent gum disease:
* Eat a healthy diet that includes whole grains, vegetables, and fruits; is low in fat and saturated fat; and low in sodium. Good nutrition is vital for children, whose teeth are still developing, and for adults in order to maintain healthy gums and avoid tooth decay.
* Mozzarella and other cheeses, peanuts, yogurt, and milk are good for your teeth. They help clear the mouth of harmful sugars and protect against plaque.
* Avoid foods that contain a lot of sugar, especially sticky, sweet foods like taffy and raisins. The longer sugar stays in contact with the teeth, the more damage it will do.
* Avoid bedtime snacks.
If you smoke or use spit tobacco, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to quit. Tobacco decreases your ability to fight infection and delays healing. Tobacco users are much more likely to develop gum disease—up to 6 times more likely—than nonsmokers. They also have more serious gum disease that leads to tooth loss and that doesn't respond as well to treatment. Quitting is difficult, but many people find success through a combination of medicine, a stop-smoking program, and counseling.
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