Your Smile: Healthy? or NOT?

Barbara Tritz
· June 2, 2014 ·

4 minutes

It’s time to turn our attention from tooth decay to gum decay.  Rather, it’s called “gum disease” but gum decay is rather appropriate, isn’t it?!  So, do you have it?  Maybe?!  80% of Americans have some stage of gum disease, and while I can’t find any quick statistics on Europe and other countries, I did see that only 41% of Europeans have all their teeth.  That tells me the gum disease is  rampant throughout the world!

from a patient of mine

Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is an infection of the gums. See the red, smooth, puffy/swollen, V shaped gums in the picture?   Since gums hold your teeth in your head, they are really rather important. In fact, it is vital to have healthy gums.

How do you know if you have periodontal disease?
#1. Are your gums tender or bleed when you brush?
(Pink on your toothbrush or pink in the sink indicates INFECTION and INFLAMMATION!)

#2. Do your gums bleed when you get your teeth cleaned?

You want to avoid pink in the sink!
found here

(Health gums do not bleed, EVER, even when you see your favorite dental professional.  Really!  Even a little bleeding means INFECTION and INFLAMMATION!)

As some of my patients tell me, their gums “always bleed with cleanings.”  As I tell them: “your gums have always been infected.  Let’s fix that!”   If your finger bled for 30 years, wouldn’t you be concerned?  Would that be okay with you?  Hope not!  Bleeding gums may not hurt- neither does heart disease, until the final stages.  The absence of pain does not mean there’s no infection or injury.

Here’s a simple test you can perform on yourself to test and see if indeed, like 80% of the US population, you, too, have gum disease:  Eastman Interdental Bleeding Index
Simply insert a triangular shaped wooden toothpick in between your teeth at the gumline.  Rub it in and          out four times.  Move from tooth to tooth, and check for bleeding, both on the lip side and the inside of          your mouth.  See blood within 15 seconds = gum disease and inflammation.

Infection in your gums causes your body to be in a chronic inflammatory state.  And, since your mouth is connected to your body, your body is in a chronic inflammatory state.  Oral health, or rather, the lack of it has life or death consequences.  Most Americans suffer from diseases caused by inflammation such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, cancer, the list goes on.   See the connection?  Healthy mouth, healthy body; unhealthy mouth, unhealthy body.  It truly is life or death.  The infection in the mouth can and does infect the rest of the body.  I’ll discuss this in much more detail in future posts.

Prevention of gum disease should be equally as important
as prevention of tooth decay!!
from Pinterest

To Know For Now:
Initially, inflammation is a good thing, that’s how our body helps us heal. The blood  flows to the site of the wound,  the heat the cells give off kill the bacteria. It’s all designed to help us heal.  The problems arise when the wound healing response does not end and it becomes chronic.  Think constant open (oral) wound full of cesspool bacteria.

As the  US Surgeon General reported in 2000 (yes, I read it) periodontal disease is the most under-diagnosed and under-treated of all the systemic illnesses.  So, we will explore all aspects of gum disease in future posts.  What you can do to prevent it, especially in children; causes; therapies; screening for it;  and most important – the oral/systemic connections.  Gum disease, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease,  bet you know someone who has one of these systemic diseases.  I have lots to share with you!!


Barbara’s Dental Hygiene Pearls of Wisdom
For now, start cleaning your teeth and mouth better.  If you have a manual tooth brush, here’s a big hint: DRY BRUSH! (I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before)  No toothpaste, no water.  Start on the bottom inside, and brush until your teeth feel and taste clean.  Brush into your gums, not perpendicular to your teeth.  Brush your gums. Then use toothpaste.   Clean and scrape your tongue. Clean in-between your teeth.  Swish and gargle with yellow Listerine and follow up immediately with ACT mouth rinse.   Spit,  don’t rinse.  Use xylitol products.   Do this routine twice a day. You’ll be well on your way to a healthier mouth and a healthier body.  Invest some time and effort in your mouth, act as if your life depends on it- because it does!

I’d love to hear from you.  Questions, comments?  If you can not leave comments here, please go to my Facebook page- and leave me a message.  I’m hoping to get lots of messages this week!

The world always looks brighter from behind a smile.    author unknown

So keep smiling!
Til next week,

Hello, I'm Barbara Tritz

Unveiling the Stories Behind Dental Hygiene

Loving science, especially biology, from an early age, Barbara is a registered dental hygienist, certified biological hygienist, and orofacial myofunctional therapist. In 2019, she received the Hu-Friedy/ADHA Master Clinician Award from the American Dental Hygienist Association.

Share your thoughts below!


  1. Michele Eaton

    Barb – this is really very important information and I appreciate the detail you go into as to the importance of a healthy mouth … really a SUPER healthy mouth based on the procedures you recommend. Never heard of dry brushing before … can you explain more why that is important. And also what is the best way you recommend to clean your tongue and the roof of your mouth as well?

  2. Barbara Tritz

    Michelle, Thank you! Great question about dry brushing. Many people still have manual brushes and glob it with toothpaste. Research shows people brush until they foam up, then spit, rinse and are done in 30 to 45 seconds. Not nearly long enough for anything to get remotely clean.. Plus, toothpaste numbs your tongue just enough to fake you out after you brush into thinking your teeth feel clean. Instead, dry brush – no toothpaste, no water and you will be able to tell when your teeth feel and taste clean, THEN put a pea sized amount on your brush to get the fluoride and nice minty breath. Start on the inside bottom where the plaque buildup is heaviest and the brush is stiffest. Works like a charm!
    Check out my blog on Tongue Talking for list of tongue cleaners. We have some in the office. I use my sonicare on the roof of my mouth, checks and gums without any problem. Smile! ~B

  3. Anonymous

    Hi Barb – me again! I wear a TAP appliance at night for sleep apnea. Lately is has become lose in my mouth and pinching the inside of cheeks when I'm trying to sleep. It hurt! So my fab dentist gave me some sample of Fixodent to try and adhere the piece that was pinching to my teeth. Wore it last night for the first time and seems to be the solution to keeping the appliance secure in my mouth. I would like to know if using Fixodent this way will harm the TAP or my teeth? Thanks again! – M

  4. Alexandra

    Hi Michele,
    No, the Fixodent won't hurt anything so if that's working for you, I'm glad!


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