Disease in our gums is something that many of us dismiss in a way that we would never do with other parts of our bodies. When plaque builds up on teeth that have not been brushed properly the bacteria in the plaque can release toxins that trigger an inflammation of the gums (called ‘gingivitis’). If this happens gums may appear red and swollen and you may find that there’s blood when you clean your teeth. Bad breath is also associated with gum disease and – if you leave it for long enough – gum disease can turn into periodontitis, which is much more serious. Periodontitis is where the deeper tissues and the bones that are supporting the teeth become inflamed – this can damage the structure of teeth and gums and you may lose teeth as a result. Perhaps the worst part of gum disease, both the very serious periodontitis and the early stage gingivitis, is that you can’t reverse it so it’s worth making sure you know what to look for so you can stop gum disease in its tracks.
Are you gums inflamed? When you open your mouth to expose your gums do you see red and swollen gums? If so then you may be looking at the early signs of gum disease. Most people don’t appreciate this is a sign of gum disease as inflamed gums don’t hurt, however, it’s the precursor to many more serious issues.
Are your gums bleeding? You will notice this when you’re flossing or brushing your teeth. Many of us ignore bleeding gums – we assume that we’ve just used the toothbrush wrongly – but this is a big sign that your gums are not in great shape.
Are your gums receding? You can judge this by looking at whether there is more or less gum than there was previously i.e. is more of the tooth visible than before? This may mean that you have damaged the tooth itself and the structure that surrounds it and you may be at the periodontitis stage. Although you can’t reverse periodontitis, it’s important to take action against the causes of gum recession straight away or you could end up losing teeth too.
The easiest way to ensure that your teeth and gums stay in mint condition is to brush daily for two minutes with an anti-bacterial toothpaste that will help you stave off the bacteria that cause plaque. Ask your dentist about brushing technique and the right way to brush your teeth well without being too forceful. Finally, try using inter-dental brushes or dental floss to get to the areas your brush can’t reach and use an antibacterial mouthwash that is alcohol free once a day.