One out of every two American adults has gum disease and more than one in every five Americans has untreated cavities!  Why should we care about our oral health and what can we do to keep gums and teeth health and strong? Let’s find out – open wide and say, ‘Aaah’!
How Common is Gum Disease and Why Does it Matter?
It’s not just adults who have dental issues; tooth decay remains the most prevalent chronic disease in children, even though it is largely preventable; 42% of children aged 2 to 11 have had dental caries in their primary teeth and 59% of adolescents aged 12 to 19 have had dental caries in their permanent teeth.  And it’s not just adults who have dental issues; close to 60% of young people aged 6-19 have or have had a cavity.
Good oral health is essential for overall health and quality of life. A happy, healthy mouth allows us to eat, drink, breathe, and to speak and smile. Our mouths are also the first stage of digestion and play a role in protecting us against infections.
When our teeth and gums aren’t in great shape, this can affect how and what we eat, and our ability to digest food and extract nutrients. Loose, lost, or painful teeth and unhealthy gums are a common cause of undesirable weight loss, nutrient deficiencies, and even speech and communication problems.
How to Maintain Healthy Gums and Teeth
Good gum and tooth care starts early in life, when caregivers clean an infant’s mouth even before the first tooth emerges. Toddlers often put up a fight over brushing, but it’s important to form this healthy habit early. Making brushing and flossing part of the routine helps keep fussing and fighting to a minimum and helps keep painful infections and sores at bay. Avoid using fluoridated toothpaste until your child is old enough to rinse and spit it out.
In addition to brushing teeth twice a day and flossing once a day, it’s also a good idea to see a dental hygienist for an annual cleaning to help remove any tartar build-up.
Brushing and flossing help to keep plaque to a minimum, but when plaque hardens into tartar, no amount of brushing or flossing can remove this scaly build-up. If left unaddressed tartar can lead to unhealthy gums and gum disease by encouraging bacterial infections.
If it’s been a while since you last saw a dentist, there’s no time like the present to book an appointment and get back on track. Establish a routine annual teeth cleaning for you and your family to help prevent gum disease and catch any problems early on.
Early gum disease is known as ginigivitis and usually manifests as slightly red gums that are a little puffy and prone to bleeding when brushing. As infection gains a stronger hold on your gums, these symptoms worsen and gums start to recede, which puts you at risk of losing teeth.
Proper brushing can help keep gingivitis at bay and prevent full-blown gum disease. Pay special attention to the tooth-gum line as this is where infection takes hold. Clean teeth and gums gently – scrubbing hard at the tissue can cause tissue damage and actually increase your risk of infection. Make sure to clean behind upper and lower front teeth with the tip of your toothbrush, and clean all the way to the back of your back teeth. Brushing should take around two to three minutes, with at least 30 seconds spent on each quadrant of your mouth. Using an electric toothbrush can help keep you on track. Or, sing a three minutes song in your head while brushing with a regular toothbrush.
If you already have early stage gum disease (gingivitis), your dentist and dental hygienist can help remove tartar and give you some top tips for brushing and flossing more effectively. If gum disease is more severe (periodontitis), your dentist may refer you to a specialist (a periodontist) to discuss restoring gum and bone lost to gum disease. Brushing and flossing are even more important if you’re already showing signs of gum disease.
Other Top Tips for Healthy Gums and Teeth
To keep teeth and gums healthy from an early age, encourage kids to drink water instead of juice, milk, carbonated drinks, or other beverages that contain sugar, phosphoric acids, and citric acids that can erode tooth enamel. If these drinks are consumed, encourage your child to drink them in a single sitting, rather than having them ‘nurse’ a bottle or juice box overnight or for an extended period of time.
Supporting tooth and gum health also means cutting down on sugary snack foods between meals and never dipping a pacifier in sugary substances.
Because acids in foods and in saliva can temporarily soften tooth enamel, avoid brushing immediately after eating. Drink water after a meal and wait at least half an hour before brushing. This well help keep tooth enamel in good shape.
Natural Supplements for Strong Teeth and Healthy Gums
Natural health products can also support oral health. Vitamin C, for instance, is vital for healthy gums and teeth as it is needed for proper immune function and to build collagen, the protein that forms most of our gum tissue and the scaffolding on which bones and teeth are built.
Vitamin D, magnesium, and vitamin K2 are other key nutrients needed for tooth health as they facilitate the absorption and use of calcium to build strong, healthy, bones and teeth.*
Antioxidant nutrients also help support the health of gums, with Coenzyme Q10 noted for its role in maintaining healthy gum tissue. Coenzyme Q10 is especially useful for anyone with concerns over the links between gum and cardiovascular and cognitive health.*
Finally, newer research suggests that curcumin, the powerful antioxidant found in turmeric, may have specific benefits for dental health. Curcumin helps support a helathy inflammatory response, can quash free radicals, and also exerts antimicrobial activity while modulating immune system activity. Both a curcumin paste and mouthwash have shown benefits in preliminary studies looking at the prevention of gum disease.[4,5]*
Good oral health is essential for overall health and quality of life. Our mouths play a role in protecting us against microbial infections and are also extremely useful for eating, drinking, and communicating. Brushing twice a day, flossing daily, getting regular check-ups and cleanings, and making use of natural health products to support great tooth and gum health can help you maintain a happy, healthy mouth, and that’s certainly something to smile about.
 American Academy of Periodontology. CDC: Half of American Adults Have Periodontal Disease. Retrieved April 2, 2019, from https://www.perio.org/consumer/cdc-study.htm
 Advancing the Nation’s Oral Health Through Research and Innovation. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Children. Retrieved April 2, 2019, from http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/research/data-statistics/children
 Bliznakov EG, Hunt G. The Miracle Nutrient Coenzyme Q10. Bantam, 1986.
 Waghmare PF, Chaudhary AU, Karhadkar VM, & Jamkhande AS. Comparative evaluation of turmeric and chlorhexidine gluconate mouthwash in prevention of plaque formation and gingivitis: A clinical and microbiological study. J Contemp Dent Pract, 2011;12, 221–2.
 Çıkrıkçı S, Mozioglu E, Yılmaz H. Biological activity of curcuminoids isolated from Curcuma longa. Rec Nat Prod, 2008;2, 19–24