Do You Have Healthy Gums?
Oral health doesn’t begin and end with your teeth. Maintain healthy gums and you can reduce your risk of gum disease and protect against tooth loss. If you have healthy gums, they will look firm and pink. Some signs of unhealthy gums include redness and swelling, gums that bleed when you brush or floss your teeth, and gums that appear to be pulling away from the teeth. (1), (2), (3)
How Do I Know If I Have Gum Disease?
There are several telltale signs of gum disease (4). They include:
- Bleeding gums (especially when you brush and floss)
- Tender, swollen gums
- A receding gum line
- Persistent bad breath
- Loose teeth
Healthy Gums and Your Overall Health
If you don’t have healthy gums, you can develop gum disease, which has been associated with several health problems. Some factors that can undermine healthy gums include tobacco use, malnutrition, poor oral hygiene, and poor immunity due to more severe medical problems. (4) Also, certain medications, including some types of antihistamines, decongestants, and painkillers, can cause dry mouth, which can promote gum disease. To help maintain your healthy gums, be sure to tell your dentist about any medications you take. He or she may have suggestions for ways to improve your oral care routine to ensure healthy teeth and healthy gums. (2)
Treat Unhealthy Gums
If you have mild gum disease (gingivitis), you can regain healthy gums by paying attention to oral hygiene. But serious gum disease, known as periodontitis, requires more sophisticated treatment to restore healthy gums. Your dentist may use one of these techniques to treat severe gum disease and promote healthy gums:
- Root scaling and planing: Removal of the plaque and tartar on your teeth above and below the gum line.
- Gingivectomy: Removal of diseased gum tissue, and elimination of any pockets between the teeth and gums where bacteria can easily grow.
- Extraction: Removal of loose teeth, or removal of teeth that are badly decayed or damaged.
- Flap surgery: Cleaning the teeth roots and repairing any bone damage. (1), (2)
How to Maintain Your Healthy Gums
Regular visits to a dentist are important for healthy gums because the dentist can identify problems early before they become serious. Follow a regular oral care routine of brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing once a day to maintain healthy gums. Some dentists may recommend an antibacterial rinse or mouthwash to help preserve healthy gums after you are treated for gum disease. (1), (2)
If you have sensitive gums, choose a soft-bristle toothbrush to reduce irritation. Some people, even those with healthy gums, discover that dental floss irritates their gums. But flossing doesn’t have to hurt—there are types of soft floss that make flossing easier, so people with sensitive gums can have healthy gums. Another option: interdental devices such as dental picks and flossers can be used to clean between the teeth and promote healthy gums. (2), (3)