What the Health: How do I keep my gums healthy?

23 Feb 2022

Flossing every day and brushing twice daily is important to keep your gums healthy to help prevent and treat gum diseases.

Why do we care about our gum health? Because we want a healthy, bright smile. If you do not floss every day and brush at least twice a day, you are at risk.

Gum diseases are the sixth most common diseases globally identified by the World Health Organisation. It starts with bacterial plaque build-up under the gum. Plaque is a sticky layer of bacterial film that constantly forms on teeth and causes inflammation in the gum and bone, leading to gum diseases.

There are two types of gum disease: early-stage gingivitis and severe-stage periodontitis. Gingivitis affects more than 90% of all adults and is characterised by red swollen gums that easily bleed. Luckily, we can reverse gingivitis by practising good oral hygiene. If gingivitis is not treated, it may progress to a severe gum disease, which is called periodontitis. Periodontitis isn’t obvious and doesn’t cause pain initially, but can lead to permanent jawbone loss, gingival recession, and gum bleeding; it may lead to tooth loss if left untreated.

Your gum disease is not only harming your teeth, but can also affect overall health. There is growing evidence that gum disease is associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, erectile dysfunction, haemochromatosis, and chronic kidney diseases. Several risk factors cause gum diseases: genetics, diabetes, smoking, medication, pregnancy, poor nutrition, stress and other systemic diseases.

There are a few simple ways to prevent this disease according to the Australian Dental Association:

  1. Brush your teeth and gum line properly twice daily with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Brush twice a day for two minutes each time, spending 30 seconds on each quarter of your teeth.
  • Make sure to hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree towards the gum.
  • Replace toothbrush every 3-4 months.
  • Move the toothbrush in short and gentle strokes.
  • Consider using an electric toothbrush to help reduce gum diseases by removing more plaque than a manual brush.
  1. Floss between teeth or use an inter-dental cleaner once a day.
  2. Rinse with an antibacterial mouthwash to prevent plaque.
  3. Avoid cigarettes and tobacco products. Smokers are more likely to build up plaque.
  4. Check diabetes and your overall health and update your dentist.
  5. See your dentist more regularly for a check-up and cleaning (twice a year). See your dentist immediately if your gum is bleeding.
  6. Eat a balanced diet and have a healthy lifestyle. This can slow the progression of gum diseases.

It is a lot to remember but it only takes 5 mins per day to floss and brush your teeth. You may find your gums are healthier and you will have a healthy, bright smile and overall health.

Dr Pingping Han is a postdoctoral research fellow in The University of Queensland's School of Dentistry. Dr Han's research has focused on discovering new biomarkers and therapies for gum diseases.


Professor Saso Ivanovski is the Head of School in UQ's School of Dentistry. Professor Ivanovski is an experienced periodontist that has been treating patients with gum diseases for over 20 years. His research has focused on developing novel regenerative medicine for gum diseases.