Advice about good oral health tends to focus on caring for your teeth. We learn how to eat healthy foods and avoid tooth decay. Unfortunately, gums are often neglected. They help to anchor your teeth in place, and they supply blood and nutrients. Damaging your gums will have a spill-over effect on your teeth, so gums need attention as well so first of all you need to know what do healthy gums look like and some tips for checking your dental health at home.
Getting a stud or ring in your lip, tongue, or gum can seem like a good idea. It’s a personal statement and is an eye-catching fashion accessory. What people don’t realise is that oral piercings can damage your teeth and gums. When you talk, eat, or smile, your piercing moves around in your mouth, especially if it’s on your tongue.
This constant movement can clash against your teeth and chip them. The jewellery will rub against your gums as it moves, and this can cause irritation, inflammation, and gum recession. If the piercing was done unhygienically, your tongue or lip might get an infection which could spread to your gums.
Grinding your teeth
Many people clench their jaws when they’re nervous or upset. Others grind their teeth consciously when they’re awake, or subconsciously in their sleep. The human jaw has a force of up to 50 kilos, so biting down exerts a lot of pressure on your gums. That kind of pressure can cause soft tissue damage as well as serious muscle strain.
Some patients aren’t aware when they’re grinding their teeth, especially when they do it in their sleep. If you know you’re a grinder or a clencher, try to find other ways of responding to stress. You can learn breathing techniques, or use a mental cue that prompts you to stop when you find yourself pressing down on your gums.
It may seem like a harmless childhood habit, but cracking ice can chip your teeth. The force you use when you bite down on ice cubes can also be harmful to gums and muscles. The temperature of the ice can also hurt sensitive teeth. Of course, some people enjoy that chilled feeling so you can drink freezing cold water instead.
When you order a drink in a restaurant, you can ask your server not to put any ice cubes in it, to avoid the temptation to crunch them. It may also help to get rid of the ice cube trays in your house, at least for a little while. If you feel the need for that crunchy feeling, munch on chilled carrots or celery sticks.
Foregoing your mouth guard
Professional athletes always wear protective gear, including helmets, knee pads, and jock straps. People who do sports for fun may not feel mouth guards are a necessity, primarily because they can get quite expensive. Also, they may not think their sports can hurt them too much because they only engage at an amateur level.
However, mouth guards don’t just reduce the chances of chipped teeth. They can absorb some of the impact of a head injury, which minimises the chances of a concussion. Plus when you hit your head hard enough, your teeth might cut your tongue and gums, or worse, sink into them. Mouth guards help to prevent this, so be sure to invest in one.
Biting your nails
Biting nails is a nervous habit, and many nail biters are asked to avoid it because it makes your hands shabby and unattractive. It can also lead to stomach infections if you ingest dirty germs, and since your hands come in contact with germ-filled surfaces, things can end badly. One thing that’s rarely discussed is the impact on your teeth.
When you bite your nails, the jagged edges might scratch or cut your gums, and this can cause infection, especially from dirt lodged under your nails. Aside from that, the pressure exerted by your jaw bone can lead to muscle strain and tissue damage. It can be worse when your nerves make you bite down too hard.
Poor brushing and flossing technique
The reason a lot of people don’t floss is a bad first experience. Dental floss is sharp enough to slice the cake, so if you don’t use it right, it can cut right through your gums. This causes pain, bleeding, and leaves you open to infection. In the same way, brushing too hard or using the wrong toothbrush can hurt your gums.
Talk to your dentist or watch YouTube tutorials to learn the safe way to floss. Buy a toothbrush that has soft bristles and change it every three months or so. You can also use a tutorial for brushing techniques, and get a brush with rounded edges to avoid bruising the inside of your mouth.
Frequently using tobacco
Smoking is often blamed for cancer, stained teeth, and bad breath, but it also increases the chances of gum disease. It thins your blood and reduces clotting, so when you do cut yourself, it can reduce your healing time and increase your exposure to infection.
Chewing tobacco is more harmful than smoking it, but either way, it’s probably best to avoid it altogether. Aside from affecting your blood, it makes the surface of your teeth more susceptible to plaque, which can build up into tartar and cause periodontal disease. Avoid these habits, and your gums will be far more healthy.