The truth about flossing, bleeding gums and the impact of asthma inhalers

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As part of our Community Oral Health Initiatives, which is helping to improve the health of children and families in North Philly, Judy Gelinas (director of Oral Health Initiatives housed at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children) has been getting the word out about oral health fact and fiction. Here are three common assumptions she helps to shed light on:

“Healthy gums don’t bleed.”

True: Bleeding means your gums are infected. The only way to improve gum health is to brush and floss daily. If you have not been flossing your teeth regularly, you may see bleeding when you floss at first, but this is not a sign to stop flossing. In fact, if you continue flossing daily, you will begin to see less and less bleeding and less and less infection. If, after a few weeks, you do not see an improvement, make sure to visit your dentist to address any other cause.

“I only need to floss when I get food caught in between my teeth.”

False: The purpose of flossing is to remove bacteria from below the gum line and the sides of the teeth. Your toothbrush never reaches these areas no matter how hard you try.  And because bacteria cause the gums to bleed easily – and it’s also the culprit leading to tooth decay – it’s important that you floss daily. And if you floss extra just to get food out from between teeth, that’s a healthy bonus.

“The use of asthma inhalers may increase my risk for tooth decay.”

True: Many of the powders used in the inhalers have a drying affect on gums – and may be slightly acidic. They also reduce the natural amount of saliva produced. And since asthmatics also tend to be mouth breathers, there can even be cause for further dryness. This combination of dry mouth and acid creates a perfect environment for cavity formation and tooth sensitivity. The good news is that oral problems associated with the use of the inhalers may be reduced simply by rinsing with water after inhaling medication, as well as brushing twice daily with a fluoride-enhanced toothpaste.

Click here for more information about our Oral Health Initiatives