Our gums are a pretty neglected species. Do we give them a second thought, considering they’re very much part of our daily activities? These tough, tender guys hold fast our teeth through our four squares and more. It’s only when our gums become sore that we become aware they exist.

Gums need looking after on a daily basis. Remember, the jaw has a bone too. And just like the bones in the hips and shoulders, the jawbone can also weaken and become brittle. It’s called periodontal osteoporosis . It can hinder us in everyday living — the teeth can become loose, gums can get sore and bleed, and infections can recur. And the phrase ‘long in the tooth’ is relevant here — if we get gingivitis, the precursor to osteoporosis, the gums shrink and recede, making our teeth look longer!

Whisk away the plaque. It’s not just teeth that get plaque, gums do too. Even babies are born with plaque on their gums. Gently shimmy a wet soft brush all across your gums to give them a nice clean-up. Whisk at the gum-line where teeth meet gums — this is the plaque-catching area. Keep your toothbrush dry when not in use. Brush your teeth at a 45-degree angle so that it doubles as a flosser and gum-cleaner. Take three minutes to brush teeth and gums.

The magic rub: Place your thumb on the inside of the gums and index finger on the outside and gently rub them. This improves circulation and firms up the gums. Check with your dentist or family physician for a suitable gel for the massage.

The briny rinse: Blend a teaspoon of salt with water and rinse out your mouth. Salt, as you know, is nature’s cleanser. A word of caution: Don’t swallow the salt water.

Bone voyage: Build and strengthen your jawbone with calcium — available in skimmed milk, curd, buttermilk, cheese, and leafy greens. Have soup made of bones boiled in water. Add vinegar while boiling the stock as it neatly leaches the calcium off the bones and makes it available for consumption.

Get the vitamin C habit; the human body lacks it in sufficient quantity. Not everybody understands the importance of vitamin C. It doesn’t just prevent gums from bleeding, it sures up our entire immune system. It’s truly worth factoring in.

Avoid crunchers and burners. Rats need to gnaw on hard stuff to keep their teeth sharp, but not us humans. The years of chewing do take a toll on the teeth and gums. So, avoid anything like the hard variety of channa and other such foods. If you have sensitive gums, avoid encounters even with corn-on-the-cob. Drink coffee and tea not at gum-burning temperature, but at a lukewarm level. Likewise with meals.

One raw vegetable and fruit a day. My dentist puts it simply: Eat one raw vegetable and fruit a day to keep gingivitis away. Apparently, these fibrous foods clean and stimulate teeth and gums. And provide precious vitamins and minerals.

Say no to phosphate in the fizzies. There’s been a lot of awareness about soft drinks ruining teeth. Well, they’re bad for bone-health too, believe medical experts. There’s some evidence that the phosphates in the soft drinks bind the calcium to the gut and prevent it from being absorbed. At least, so show animal studies. The more we drink such cold drinks, the less capacity and inclination will we have to drink milk. Interestingly, some experts say that for every gram of phosphorus we need to ingest one gram of calcium. And even then it’s not such simple math, as the body doesn’t absorb calcium quite that easily. Keep it simple — go for milk.

The calcium question. If your system is unable to absorb calcium from natural sources, please consider calcium supplements. Generally, most digestive systems find absorbing calcium carbonate easy. Divide the prescribed dose between two meals. Since the metabolism is already active, it gladly works on the supplement too. If you want to check whether a particular brand works, drop two tablets in five tablespoons of vinegar. Stir. If they fragment, it means they’ll be easily absorbed. If the tablets stay firm, ask your doctor for a more digestion-friendly brand.

Relax for gum health. Wisely aim for a relaxed way of doing things.

Stress can have you gnashing your teeth in your sleep. Or tighten your jaw. Or bring on acidic reflux after a meal that rises up to corrode gums and teeth. This can also cause acute headaches, spreading across the neck and shoulders. To shift away from stress, I suggest giving 15-30 minutes to experience your inner silence every day. Just see your thoughts as meaningless vibrations dressed as words. When you strip off the words, only the vibrations remain. Then they still. And you touch your true nature of healing peace which is even beyond relaxation.

The writer is co-author of the book ‘Fitness for Life.’