When you think of “oral wellness,” what comes to mind? Clean, sparkling teeth? Fresh breath? While these are absolutely vital parts of your oral health, today, I’d like to tell you about your gums.
As you may know, your gums are the soft tissue around your teeth. Not only do they help keep your teeth in place, but they provide a protective barrier against harmful oral bacteria. (Not all the bacteria in your mouth are harmful – in fact, good oral bacteria do everything from fighting bad breath to helping start to digest your food. The bad oral bacteria, however, can lead to plaque buildup, tooth decay, and even gum disease.)
So it makes sense that gum recession – when your gums start to pull away from your teeth – can harm your oral health. Without healthy gums, your teeth are more vulnerable to bad oral bacteria, leading to plaque buildup, tooth decay, gum disease, and even the erosion or loss of teeth.
Unfortunately, gum recession is a huge problem in America.
WHY IS GUM RECESSION A HUGE ISSUE IN AMERICA?
Think back to when you were a child. Who taught you to brush your teeth, and how did they tell you? Now, I was born and raised in India, so if you are American, my experience was different from yours. But almost all my American friends tell me that they were taught to brush their teeth as hard as they could with a stiff-bristled toothbrush. The advice was: Scrub at your teeth and gums to get rid of every last piece of food and plaque.
Unfortunately, this is terrible advice and has led to widespread gum recession, especially in those born in the 1980s and earlier. Gum tissue is delicate, and unlike skin or hair, once it starts receding, it cannot grow back on its own. (Gum grafting, an outpatient surgical procedure, can help reconstruct gums, but does not occur naturally.)
Thank goodness that Western dentists have finally come to understand what I have been teaching all along: When brushing your teeth, rub, don’t scrub.
This is excellent advice, but it has come too late for many people. 88% of people over the age of 65 have gum recession on one or more teeth. If your teeth look longer or notched at the bottom, or if your gums suddenly feel sensitive, you may be experiencing gum recession. Gum recession can cause your tooth roots to be exposed, which is where the feelings of sensitivity come from.
WHAT ARE OTHER REASONS WHY PEOPLE HAVE SENSITIVE GUMS?
Gum recession isn’t the only reason people experience gum sensitivity. Vitamin D deficiency, smoking, diabetes, hormonal changes, gum disease, and stress can cause increased gum sensitivity, and even gum bleeding.
It is also important to note that if you are undergoing chemotherapy, or the treatment of cancer with drugs, you may also experience gum sensitivity. Though chemotherapy primarily targets harmful cancerous cells, it can inadvertently kill “good” cells as well – including cells in the mouth. Gum sensitivity, lack of saliva, and even difficulty eating can be side effects of chemotherapy – plus, without these cells, you may be more sensitive to oral infection.
If you are experiencing oral discomfort due to chemotherapy, the most important thing to do is tell your doctor.
HOW CAN I TAKE CARE OF SENSITIVE GUMS?
Even though I have made over 30 years of experience in every aspect of oral care, I always advise people who have questions about their oral health to consult their dentist first. Visiting your dentist twice a year for professional oral hygiene cleaning and examination is critical. Your dentist is the best person to assess how to treat any gum recession or gum sensitivity you are experiencing – aside, of course, from your doctor if you are undergoing chemotherapy.
If you are having these symptoms, however, your dentist will likely recommend that you begin using a soft-bristled toothbrush and that you brush gently. If so, the GuruNanda Butter on Gums (6-Count) is an excellent choice. With over 8,000 Softex ultra-soft, multidimensional bristles, an angled neck, and an ergonomic handle, the Butter on Gums Toothbrush delivers an effective but gentle and pleasant oral cleaning experience that protects your gums.