Gums, like many other parts of the body, can be prone to disease. Gum disease, also known as periodontitis, begins with bacterial growth in the mouth. This can lead to wider health complications if not treated properly. If gum disease is left untreated it can affect overall health such as increased risk of stroke, heart disease, diabetes, among many others.
Generally, healthy gums look pink and are firm. Any change in this natural colour can be a sign of poor health. If gums are tender and sore or if they are bleeding, it could be a sign of gum disease. Gingivitis is an early stage of disease but is reversible if oral care is taken.
Dental therapist, hygienist and founder of London Hygienist, Anna Middleton offers the following advice:
“Gum disease is caused by plaque – the white sticky film that forms in all our mouths. Plaque is filled with bacteria, and some of this bacterium is good, while some of it is bad. If plaque is left behind after a period, it starts to irritate the gums and cause inflammation. Toxins produced by the bacteria in the plaque start to break down the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place. As it worsens, the pockets deepen, and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed. Teeth are no longer anchored in place and become loose, resulting in tooth loss.
If not treated gum disease can also lead to and increase the risk of other health conditions as the bacteria from your mouth travels through your blood to other parts of your body. If you want to keep your pearly whites intact, understanding gum disease and recognising what signs to look out for is extremely important.”
How to avoid gum disease and maintain good oral hygiene.
Brush once in the morning and at night for two minutes. Change brush heads every three months.
Use fluoride toothpaste. Place the toothbrush bristles at a 45-degree angle to the gum line.
Brush your tongue or use a tongue scraper to clean. Up to 80% of bad breath derives from odour-producing bacteria that accumulates within the porous surface.
Don’t rinse your mouth after brushing. This washes away the beneficial ingredients in toothpaste such as fluoride which helps to prevent dental decay. Mouthwash should be used at a separate time.
Brushing cleans only 60% of the mouth. Food lodges between teeth so cleaning between teeth regularly helps to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Use interdental brushes and the largest size, although you may need various sizes. If the teeth are close together, dental floss works better. It is recommended to do this once a day, at night.
A dental hygienist offers specialised care for gums, including the management of periodontal disease while a dentist looks after teeth.