An estimated 80% of Americans have some form of gum disease.
The periodontist. Gum disease is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, pregnancy complications and diabetes. Organisms can move from your gums into the bloodstream, where they can create problems throughout your body. Sugary foods can lead to tooth decay, but they don’t affect gum disease. Your best bet: Brush and floss, and look for a mouthwash that fights gingivitis and reduces plaque.
– Steven Offenbacher, DDS Director, Center for Oral and Systemic Diseases, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Dentistry
The cosmetic dentist. There’s an association between gum disease and heart disease, so brushing and flossing are key to good overall health. You need a dentist who can spot problems when they’re small, not when they become big issues. I like electric toothbrushes to get to the gums around the teeth, but they don’t take the place of flossing. Brush for 2 minutes — most of us do it for less than a minute, on average.
– Jonathan B. Levine, DMD Educational Director of Aesthetics, New York University
The dentist. The major oral health problems are gum disease, decay and a bad bite. All can lead to tooth loss. For healthy teeth, brush and floss after meals. If you have bridges or orthodontics, try a water pick. To treat gum disease, your dentist may remove bacteria and plaque from under the gum line with a technique called “scaling and root planing.”
– Mac Lee, DDS, Edna, Texas
The supplement pro. Calcium, magnesium and phosphorus all help build strong bones, and will aid in keeping your teeth healthy too. Add them to your diet, or try them in supplement form. And if you suffer from periodontal disease, ask your dentist about CoQ10, which may promote cell growth and heal gum tissue.
– Chris Conway, Founder, healthyhumans.com
The golden gum rule: Only floss the teeth you wish to keep. The risk isn’t just tooth loss; chronic inflammation from gingivitis can up your risk of heart attack and stroke. If your gums bleed whenever you floss, you may have gingivitis; bacteria in plaque are to blame. Some research suggests it may even be caused by infections passed while kissing. How romantic.