Our gums are so important, but so often overlooked. While they may not be as noticeable as our teeth, they're the supporting structure for our smiles. And the soft tissue that makes up your gums sometimes needs some extra TLC.
Periodontal disease is one of the most serious dental conditions and can lead to tooth loss. If you're hoping to stay vigilant and prevent it from taking hold, here are signs to watch for during daily life. Make sure your gums are healthy to help support your smile for many years to come!
What is gingivitis?
Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums. It occurs when plaque has begun to build up on your teeth. The sticky, thin film of plaque contains bacteria. These bacteria produce acids. Both of those irritate the gums and give rise to inflammation.
Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease and can be stopped with improved oral hygiene. If it progresses to periodontitis, you will need more serious professional care like a deep cleaning. But gingivitis alone can be treated at home with rigorous brushing and flossing, healthy eating, and gum-healthy habits. So it's key that you catch it in its early stages.
Signs your gum health may be suffering
- Your gums bleed - Do you notice blood on your toothbrush or your floss while cleaning your teeth? If your gums are bleeding during oral hygiene, you should check in with your dentist. The only exception is if you've recently picked flossing back up after a break - in this case, the bleeding should stop after a few days of consistent flossing.
- You have loose-feeling teeth - Your gums support your teeth and lend stability. If your teeth feel wobbly, they have likely been weakened by infection. If this persists, it can lead to tooth loss.
- Your teeth are looking longer - Gum recession is one of the most noticeable signs of periodontal disease. If more of your tooth root is showing, your tooth may look longer than usual and yellow at the base. You may also notice increased sensitivity. Some gum recession does occur naturally as we age, but anything happening quickly enough to be noticeable warrants professional attention.
- You have other health conditions connected to oral health - There are health concerns linked to periodontal disease, including diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis. Pregnant people are also more likely to experience gingivitis. If any of these conditions apply to you, you should schedule frequent dental exams to monitor your gum line.
- There are other genetic factors present that may impact your gums - Unfortunately, you can be predisposed to gum disease. If it runs in your family, touch base with your dentist on appropriate precautionary measures.
- You use tobacco - Cigarettes, vapes, and chewing tobacco all irritate the teeth and gums and also increase your risk of developing oral cancer.
How can I support healthy gums with my daily habits?
If you're at risk of developing gum disease, these are the best daily steps to take:
- Fine-tune your oral hygiene, and stay consistent - Make sure that you're brushing and flossing effectively to remove bacteria before it forms a layer of plaque. Use tools that you're comfortable with - consider an electric toothbrush to improve your overall brushing, and if you struggle to floss, try a water flosser. Make sure that you're brushing twice a day for at least 2 minutes each time, and flossing at least once a day.
- Eat healthy - Make sure you're getting a well-rounded diet with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Cut down on sugar where possible.
- Drink plenty of water - Water helps rinse away bacteria and acids and is particularly helpful after you've eaten a meal or a snack.
- Use medicated mouthwash - Talk to your dentist about whether a mouthwash would be helpful to reduce bad oral bacteria and protect your gums.
- Quit tobacco - We know you've been told this before, but reconsider your tobacco use to help create a healthy environment for your gums.
Ready to have your gums evaluated by a professional? Schedule your next dental exam today.