Do you take good care of your gums? It's the latest health topic making waves on social media—and for good reason. "We are seeing a dramatic shift within dentistry," says Dr Reena Wadia, the founder and principal gum specialist at RW Perio, "with our patients adopting a lifestyle approach with a health-first mindset". The notion that "a healthy body begins with a healthy mouth" is more relevant than ever, she feels—and it seems many agree: videos tagged with 'gum health' on TikTok have amassed over 87 million views and counting.
"It often surprises people that gum disease is the most common disease in humans," she says. As per the NHS, gum disease is classed as a condition whereby the gums become red, swollen, and sore, and bleed—something a dentist can easily diagnose and treat. Put simply, it's caused by a build-up of plaque on the teeth, but Dr Wadia adds that there are often many factors that contribute to the diagnosis of gum disease, with genetics playing a part.
The link between gum disease and other health conditions—from pregnancy ailments to Alzheimer’s
"There is a clear link between oral health and general health," Dr Wadia tells Bazaar, "with evidence to suggest links between gum disease and many other inflammatory conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and Alzheimer’s."
Expectant mothers are vulnerable to poor gum health, she explains. "Hormonal changes during pregnancy can make your gums more vulnerable to plaque, leading to inflammation and bleeding and essentially gum disease—so at this time it's more crucial than ever to regularly see a dentist." At this time your body produces more of the hormone progesterone, which boosts the blood supply to the mouth and makes gums more sensitive to bacteria, Dr Wadia expands.
And another caution for those who are expecting: "If you experience morning sickness, do not brush your teeth straight away as they will be softened by the acid from your stomach," she advises. "Wait about an hour before brushing and instead, simply rinse your mouth with plain water after each time you are sick. This will help prevent the acid in your vomit from damaging your teeth."
She feels it's vital to bring gum disease to prominence—especially as it is applicable to all age groups, with "too many people ignoring the symptoms such as bleeding gums”.
Why gum health is the starting point of cosmetic dentistry, and the rise in gum aesthetic treatments
Gum health is the starting point of cosmetic dentistry, too. "Without healthy gums you cannot go on to create your perfect smile with the likes of orthodontics (such as Invisalign programmes), whitening, veneers and bonding etc—as without a strong foundation there simply isn’t any point in investing in anything else." For this reason she recommends visiting a gum specialist prior to any cosmetic treatments to get your smile in the healthiest condition and ensure the longevity of any further work to your teeth.
But the demand for gum aesthetic treatments has a growing waiting list alone, she reveals, which might look like anything "from gum lifts and gum sculpting to correction of gum recession". These are dental tweakments that many are unaware of, Dr Wadia notes, yet their results can be game-changing. "They come with minimal disruption to lifestyle during the procedure, with fast recovery and little downtime afterwards," she reveals.
Expert tips for maintaining good gum health at home
Don't only clean your teeth: "It's key to include the gum line as that’s where the bacteria get trapped," says Dr Wadia. "So, remember your teeth, tongue, and gum line, and think of the mouth as a whole." You need to place the toothbrush at a 45 degree angle against the spot where the gums and teeth meet, she adds, "angling it upwards for the upper teeth and downwards for the lower teeth". Spend a few seconds per tooth.
Don't rush the basics: "Brush your teeth twice a day for a full two minutes at a time (it is recommended to spend 30 seconds per quadrant), and use interdental brushes to clean between the teeth."
Use an electric (rechargeable) toothbrush: "There are two types of electric toothbrushes to choose from: oscillating—rotary and sonic. Oscillating toothbrushes (as the name suggests) oscillate back and forth to help remove plaque, while rotary toothbrushes rotate in a circular motion. They both do a great job at removing plaque from the teeth compared to a manual toothbrush."
Be mindful of the pressure sensors: "Pressure sensors on electric toothbrushes can ensure that you are not over-brushing, as excessive pressure can harm both your teeth and gums."
Choose your toothpaste carefully: "Use a toothpaste that has 1,000 to 1,500 parts per million (ppm) of fluoride in it. Always spit out toothpaste when you’ve finished, but don’t rinse or it will wash away all the good ingredients (such as fluoride)."