European Gum Health Day takes place on 12 May 2019 to raise awareness about the importance of gum health for overall health and wellbeing.

According to Donna Paton, dental hygienist at Dental Care Ireland in Tullamore: "Patients often overlook their gums when it comes to oral health, and focus on achieving a bright, white smile instead. However, gum disease is one of the most widespread chronic conditions in Ireland and if left untreated, can lead to pain, infection and eventually loss of teeth.

"The first signs of gum disease are red, swollen gums that bleed when you brush your teeth. Other symptoms include bad breath, gum recession and sensitive or loose teeth. Practicing good oral hygiene is the most important action that a person can take to prevent and treat gum disease. In most cases, the symptoms can be reversed, but early diagnosis is key."

child brushing teeth
Be sure to spit out excess toothpaste after brushing

#1 Brush up on your routine 
A thorough brushing routine is key to maintaining a healthy mouth and gums. Ideally, brush twice per day for two minutes with a fluoride toothpaste, especially last thing at night. Remember to include your tongue, as it can also harbour bacteria. It is important to replace your toothbrush at least every three months, or after an illness.

#2 Floss daily 
Floss teeth at least once a day, preferably before brushing. Flossing helps to remove any food and plaque trapped between your teeth and gums, that may be beyond your toothbrush’s reach.

#3 Rinse with care 
Using a fluoride toothpaste helps keep teeth strong and prevent dental decay. Be sure to spit out excess toothpaste after brushing but avoid rinsing, so that fluoride remains on your teeth.

#4 Schedule a regular dental check-up
Regular check-ups allow your dentist or dental hygienist to detect conditions such as tooth decay or gum disease early. They will also offer professional advice on hygiene, diet and best maintenance. In addition to a good daily oral health routine at home, professional cleaning helps to prevent a build-up of plaque bacteria which can lead to gum disease. 

#5 Quit smoking 
Smoking is strongly associated with the onset of gum disease. As smoking weakens the immune system, it makes it harder to fight off a gum infection. Smoking also makes it more difficult for your gums to heal once they have been damaged.

#6 Try a mouthwash
Although it is not a substitute for brushing and flossing, your dentist or dental hygienist may recommend a suitable mouthwash to help reduce plaque build-up and prevent gum disease. 

Donna Paton RDH is a dental hygienist at Dental Care Ireland in Tullamore. For further tips and advice on looking after your oral health, visit www.dentalcareireland.ie