The Connection Between Gum Disease and Sailing
The Connection Between Gum Disease and Sailing

Maintaining good oral hygiene while sailing is crucial to prevent gum disease, which can be exacerbated by limited access to dental care, changes in diet, dehydration, and stress.

The Connection Between Gum Disease and Sailing

Ahoy, fellow sailors! As you embark on your exciting journey to explore the world with your family, it’s essential to remember that your health and well-being are just as important as the adventures you’ll experience. One aspect of health that is often overlooked, especially while sailing, is dental care. In this article, we’ll dive deep into the connection between gum disease and sailing, and provide you with practical advice to maintain your oral health while at sea.

Table of Contents

Understanding Gum Disease

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a common but preventable condition that affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth. It is caused by the buildup of plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that forms on the teeth. If not removed through regular brushing and flossing, plaque can harden into tartar, which can only be removed by a dental professional.

There are two main stages of gum disease:

  1. Gingivitis: This is the early stage of gum disease, characterized by red, swollen, and bleeding gums. Gingivitis is reversible with proper oral hygiene and professional dental care.

  2. Periodontitis: If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, a more severe form of gum disease. Periodontitis can lead to the destruction of the gums, bone, and other structures supporting the teeth, eventually resulting in tooth loss.

Why Sailors are at Risk

Sailors are at a higher risk of developing gum disease for several reasons:

  1. Limited access to dental care: While sailing, you may not have access to a dentist for extended periods. This makes it challenging to receive regular dental checkups and cleanings, which are crucial for preventing gum disease.

  2. Changes in diet: A diet high in sugar and carbohydrates can contribute to the development of gum disease. Sailors may rely on non-perishable, processed foods that are high in sugar and carbs, increasing their risk of developing gum disease.

  3. Dehydration: Staying hydrated is essential for maintaining good oral health. Saliva helps to wash away food particles and bacteria, reducing the risk of gum disease. Sailors may not drink enough water, especially in hot climates, leading to dehydration and a higher risk of gum disease.

  4. Stress: Sailing can be a stressful experience, especially during challenging weather conditions or when dealing with boat maintenance issues. Stress can weaken the immune system, making it harder for your body to fight off the bacteria that cause gum disease.

Preventing Gum Disease at Sea

Prevention is the best approach to maintaining good oral health while sailing. Here are some tips to help you prevent gum disease at sea:

  1. Brush your teeth twice a day: Brush your teeth for at least two minutes, using a fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Make sure to brush all surfaces of your teeth, including the front, back, and chewing surfaces.

  2. Floss daily: Flossing helps to remove plaque and food particles from between your teeth and under the gumline, where your toothbrush can’t reach. Use a gentle sawing motion to guide the floss between your teeth, and curve the floss around each tooth to clean below the gumline.

  3. Rinse with an antimicrobial mouthwash: Using an antimicrobial mouthwash can help to reduce plaque and prevent gum disease. Look for a mouthwash that is specifically designed to fight gum disease, and follow the instructions on the label for best results.

  4. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to help maintain good oral health. Aim for at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day, and increase your intake if you’re in a hot climate or engaging in physical activity.

  5. Eat a balanced diet: Limit your consumption of sugary and starchy foods, and focus on consuming a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. This will help to reduce your risk of developing gum disease.

Recognizing the Signs of Gum Disease

It’s essential to be aware of the signs of gum disease so that you can take action if you notice any symptoms. Some common signs of gum disease include:

  • Red, swollen, or tender gums
  • Bleeding gums when brushing or flossing
  • Receding gums, or the appearance of longer teeth
  • Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth
  • Loose or shifting teeth
  • Changes in your bite or the way your teeth fit together

If you notice any of these signs, it’s essential to take action to prevent the progression of gum disease.

Treating Gum Disease While Sailing

If you suspect that you have gum disease, it’s crucial to address the issue as soon as possible. Here are some steps you can take to treat gum disease while sailing:

  1. Improve your oral hygiene routine: Make sure you’re brushing and flossing regularly and using an antimicrobial mouthwash. This will help to remove plaque and bacteria, reducing the symptoms of gum disease.

  2. Use a saltwater rinse: Rinsing your mouth with warm salt water can help to soothe inflamed gums and reduce the symptoms of gum disease. Dissolve one teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water, and swish the solution around your mouth for 30 seconds before spitting it out.

  3. Take over-the-counter pain relievers: If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort due to gum disease, you can take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to help manage your symptoms.

  4. Seek professional dental care: If your symptoms persist or worsen, it’s essential to seek professional dental care as soon as you’re able. A dentist can assess your oral health, provide a thorough cleaning, and recommend appropriate treatment for gum disease.

Maintaining Good Oral Hygiene at Sea

In addition to preventing and treating gum disease, it’s essential to maintain good oral hygiene while sailing. Here are some tips to help you keep your teeth and gums healthy at sea:

  1. Pack a well-stocked dental kit: Make sure you have all the necessary supplies for maintaining good oral hygiene, including toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, mouthwash, and a small mirror.

  2. Replace your toothbrush regularly: Toothbrushes should be replaced every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles become frayed. Make sure to pack enough toothbrushes for the duration of your sailing adventure.

  3. Keep your dental supplies clean and dry: Store your toothbrush and other dental supplies in a clean, dry place to prevent the growth of bacteria.

  4. Schedule regular dental checkups: While it may be challenging to visit a dentist while sailing, try to schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings whenever you’re in port. This will help to ensure that your teeth and gums stay healthy throughout your journey.


Sailing is an incredible adventure, but it’s essential not to overlook the importance of maintaining good oral health while at sea. By understanding the connection between gum disease and sailing, and following the tips provided in this article, you can help to ensure that your teeth and gums stay healthy throughout your journey. So, keep smiling and enjoy the open sea with your family, knowing that you’re taking care of your oral health along the way.