Periodontal disease, or gum disease, is one of the most common oral health problems among Canadians. It begins with slight inflammation of the gum tissue, which is caused by bacteria accumulating between the teeth and gums. Without the proper attention and care, it can lead to bleeding gums, bad breath and tooth loss. 

Unfortunately, many people don’t take proper care of their mouth. Here’s why it’s important to pay more attention to your oral health – including your teeth, gums, cheeks, and tongue.

1. Your oral health affects your overall health

We know that good oral health can help prevent things like bad breath and tooth decay, but an unhealthy mouth also increases the risk of serious health problems like heart disease and diabetes.

 “Research has proven the relationship between periodontal disease and general health,” says Dr. Liran Levin, professor at the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta. “If you suffer from periodontal disease, the bacteria in your gums enters the bloodstream, and that can affect your overall health. Moreover, the constant inflammation in your mouth might have a dangerous effect on your overall wellbeing.” The spread of bacteria can result in an increased risk for heart attacks or strokes.

People with diabetes have a high risk of developing gum disease, but the relationship goes both ways. “Research also shows that having a serious gum infection can make it more difficult for diabetics to control blood sugar levels,” explains Dr. Levin.

2. No pain doesn’t always mean no problem

In most cases, chronic gum disease is painless, which means you won’t always know when there’s a problem. “Apart from minor discomfort and some swelling in the gums, most patients don’t feel any pain or other noticeable symptoms,” says Dr. Levin. The symptoms of periodontal disease are muted, which means we usually don’t seek help until it’s too late. “That’s why regular check-ups are so important,” he adds.

3. You probably aren’t flossing right

According to Dr. Levin, you have to be very talented in the art of flossing for it to be effective alone. Most of us are not. “There are other instruments that you can use instead of flossing to clean between the teeth, such as interproximal brushes or dental toothpicks,” says Dr. Levin. “But we need to be using them properly on a regular basis, not letting them collect dust in the bathroom cabinet.” This, on top of regular brushing with a toothpaste focused on overall oral health, will help you maintain optimal oral hygiene. “Make sure you get the proper training from your dentist or dental hygienist every time you visit them,” stresses Dr. Levin.

4. Your toothpaste matters

Not all toothpastes are created equal. “Most fluoride toothpastes only protect our teeth,” says Dr. Levin. “But we need to take care of our whole mouth, including the tongue, cheeks, and gums.”

Colgate Total recently launched a new formula, reinvented to deliver health to the whole mouth in a new way. The toothpaste provides all the benefits of the original formula (protection against plaque, gingivitis, stains, tartar and cavities) and a few new ones, including sensitivity relief, instant neutralization of odours related to bad breath, and new flavours for longer-lasting freshness.

5. Oral diseases are completely preventable

The good news is that gum disease and cavities are totally avoidable. Among other things, focus on cleaning your teeth regularly and effectively. 

“The moment you stop brushing and cleaning your teeth, bacteria start to accumulate, and if left alone, they become strong enough to cause damage,” explains Dr. Levin. “That’s why you have to mechanically remove plaque and bacteria at least twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush, interproximal cleaning aid, and a fluoride-based toothpaste that targets whole mouth health, like Colgate Total’s new formula.”

When it comes to improving overall health, start with your teeth first — it’s the easiest way to take care of yourself!