The gums are the soft tissue that wraps around your teeth and holds them in place, and along with your teeth, they require constant cleaning and attention to keep them healthy. Most people tend to have gum-related issues and underlying conditions that can get worse if their gums are not in the best condition.
We gathered the most important information about gums that cover everything you need to know about them and how to look after them. Including what can happen if you don’t clean them properly and what to do if you develop an infection, this post is your go-to guide to gums.
Why Is Gum Health Important?
Your gums play a key role in your oral health, and they are known as the soft and pink/light red tissue around your teeth and the roots of such, as well as the bones in your jaw. Gums act as a protective seal and layer against bacteria that can produce diseases and is the supportive structure that keeps your teeth in place.
Since they’re a shielding barrier, debilitated or damaged gums can result in food debris and bacteria finding their way between your gum line and your teeth, corroding this layer and increasing the chances of ending up with receding gums and even tooth loss (periodontal disease).
Studies have shown that people who suffer from periodontal disease, over the years, tend to have higher chances of suffering from cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, as well as diabetes, dementia, and pregnancy complications, according to Harvard Health. Experts claim that the link between these issues may be inflammation caused by gum disease.
This happens when build-up plaque is not properly removed from the teeth and gums, by brushing at least twice a day, since they can release toxins that inflame the gums. When this begins, gingivitis appears, and if not caught soon it can progress into something more serious and irreversible, like periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease does not have a natural solution and surgery is almost always the recommended course of action (tissue or bone grafts attached to your jaw to allow the gum to wrap around your teeth again).
Apart from this, certain medications can be a contributor factor, added to poor oral health, that can compromise your body. Painkillers, antidepressants, decongestants, and other medicaments tend to reduce the amount of saliva we produce, and saliva has a very important job to wash away food and neutralize acids that bacteria found in our mouth produce. This results in another layer of protection from microbes that spread disease (1).
If you already have a low resistance to infection due to a lack of oral hygiene, your body is more prone to develop other diseases, which at the same time can make your oral health issues more severe than they already are.
According to Mayo Clinic, conditions linked to oral health include:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Pregnancy and birth complications
Recommended Products For Gum Care
Previously, we talked about how to care for your gums and which items you should use. We gathered information and compared products to give you the top recommended products for gum care that will help you in your journey, along with dental check-ups.
We’ll begin with the number one item you need in your bathroom to clean your teeth and gums: a good toothbrush. Experts recommend going for soft-bristled toothbrushes that can be easily maneuvered and don’t harm your mouth. Whether you prefer a manual or electric toothbrush, this criteria should be a priority. If you choose an electric toothbrush, make sure to not add pressure when you brush, since you can damage your gums, but slightly move it from side to side at a 45° angle.
Our top choices for the best toothbrush for gum care are:
- Colgate 360° Advanced Optic White Toothbrush. It comes with two toothbrushes in one pack so you can replace your toothbrush after three to four months of use. What we recommend about this toothbrush is its firm but soft bristles that get rid of food leftovers and bacteria in front, below, and in between your teeth. The handle comes with anti-slippery dots that are great for having a secure grip.
- Philips One by Sonicare Rechargeable Toothbrush. An excellent electric toothbrush that softly moves around your teeth, eliminating build-up plaque and tartar. It is affordable and can last a very long time too.
- Oral-B Pro-Flex Charcoal Manual Toothbrush. This toothbrush is gentle on the enamel of your teeth, so it is safe for everyday use. The bristles are soft and durable, as well as infused with charcoal, which helps with teeth brightening.
Now that you have some options for toothbrushes, we move on to choosing adequate toothpaste. Many people might think this is an easy choice, but depending on what your gums and teeth need, the product you want to buy may change.
This is our selection of the most effective kinds of toothpaste for gum care:
- Colgate Max Fresh with Whitening Toothpaste. Excellent for those who have bad breath due to bacteria and want to get rid of it naturally, while looking after their gums and teeth.
- Crest 3D White Luminous Mint Teeth Whitening Toothpaste. Yellow and dark-colored teeth are a consequence of lack of brushing, stains, and more. With this toothpaste, you can slowly bring your teeth’s color back.
- Sensodyne Pronamel Intensive Enamel Repair Toothpaste for Sensitive Teeth. If you’re suffering from gingivitis or periodontal disease and your gums hurt constantly, you might want to consider this toothpaste that can help with the pain. It is great for repairing enamel and for sensitive gums and teeth.
Flossing is strongly recommended by dentists, and we have a selection of the best flosses for looking after your gums too that include:
- Oral-B Glide Pro-Health Dental Floss. Ideal for deep-cleaning your teeth and eliminating bad breath and taste.
- Listerine Ultraclean Dental Floss. Great for getting rid of all bacteria that get stuck between your teeth quickly. You can keep this in your pocket when you go out to clean your teeth seconds after you eat.
- Plackers Micro Mint Dental Flossers. If you don’t like to cut your floss this is the perfect tool for you. Simply unfold it and clean your teeth perfectly in no time.
What If Prevention Is Too Late?
If you’ve taken every precious method to prevent your gums and teeth from hurting, or you did not take care of them as recommended, you should schedule an appointment with a dentist and let a professional assess your situation and introduce you to the best solutions according to what you need.
Depending on your case, deep-cleaning treatments or surgery may be advisable by your oral health professional.
Symptoms Of Gum Disease
Gum disease can begin unnoticeably and even some of the signs may appear occasionally rather than as a persistent issue. It is important to know the common symptoms of gum disease, what to do if you experience them and when to see a dentist.
- Swollen gums, sore and red
- Bleeding gums when you eat hard foods, floss or brush your teeth
- Bad taste in the mouth and bad breath
- Loosen teeth or teeth falling out
- Gums shrinking
You should see a dentist if your gums are painful and swollen, they bleed when you eat hard foods (apples, for example), have bad breath and, in the case of children, their gums are sore and bleed.
Apart from this, you should ask for an urgent dentist appointment if you have a lump in your mouth/lip, your teeth are falling out or becoming loose, you have red patches or ulcers in your mouth or your gums are very swollen and sore.
When you arrive at the dentist’s office for a check-up after having one or more symptoms, they will perform a dental exam which typically involves taking a look at your gums and seeing if they bleed, how swollen and firm they are as well as how deep is the pocket (space between gum and tooth); the deeper this gap is, the more severe is your situation regarding gum disease.
What’s more, they’ll check that your teeth are properly aligned, how they move, and how sensitive they are. Finally, an oral health professional will examine your jawbone to determine if the bone surrounding your teeth has been broken down.
Different Stages Of Gum Disease: Treatable Till Worse
Gum disease is not a single thing that can affect your gums and teeth, but rather a term that is used to describe several illnesses surrounding your teeth. It has different stages that get progressively worse if not diagnosed and treated soon.
We’ll go through each phase so you can understand them better and spot the signs as quickly as possible.
In essence, gum disease is divided into two different types: gingivitis and periodontitis. The first one is the most common and known form of gum disease that can be cured if spotted early. Untreated gingivitis can turn into periodontitis, which is not curable.
Periodontitis, on the other hand, can be separated into 4 stages: initial, moderate, severe with potential tooth loss, and severe with potential for loss of all the teeth.
Stage 1: Initial Periodontitis
The first stage of periodontitis appears when gingivitis is left untreated inflamed gums become destructive. This long-term inflammation can be prejudicial to the body in general such as damage to arthritic joints in your hips, knees, and fingers. The thing with periodontitis is that it causes harm to the fibers (due to inflammation) that join the socket to the teeth and root. When these fibers are compromised, the damage is permanent.
Symptoms of periodontitis stage 1 are very similar to gingivitis, which is why most people tend to confuse them and not get the appropriate treatment on time. You’ll notice your gums bleeding when you brush your teeth and, over time, they’ll get more inflamed. It is important to understand that when you reach periodontitis stage 1, the damage can’t be reversed but it can be managed by a professional dental health team to try and stop its development into something else.
A dental team will help you learn how to properly brush your teeth with effective and gentle techniques as well as perform deep cleanings to get rid of all bacteria and food debris that may be contributing to the inflammation.
Stage 2: Moderate Periodontitis
If you don’t treat periodontitis stage 1, it evolves into stage 2, known as moderate periodontitis. In essence, what’s different between stage 1 and stage 2 is the amount of damage done to your gums, with moderate periodontitis being slightly more noticeable and permanent damage.
Stage 3: Severe Periodontitis (with potential for tooth loss)
When you reach the third stage of periodontitis it means your condition is serious and you risk losing your teeth. Pain is not something typical of this or the previous stages of periodontitis but other symptoms are likely to appear or get worse such as bad breath, bad taste, your teeth appearing longer (due to your gums receding), and moving or becoming loose.
Furthermore, how your teeth fit together when you bite may also change over time when you get to this phase. Biting can become sore and some people develop swellings and abscesses with pus, which are painful.
As for treatments, all options are considered including surgery to manage your condition. Some teeth may be impossible to save, therefore will need to be replaced by dental implants or dentures. Your dentists can point to the best course of action for your situation and needs.
Stage 4: Severe Periodontitis (with potential for the loss of all teeth)
People who experience stage 4 of periodontitis may already be missing a few teeth and the ones that remain might be loose. This happens because the gums and bones that should be supporting them are weak or faded since the early phases of the condition.
Visible consequences of severe periodontitis with the potential for the loss of all teeth appear as gaps forming between teeth, and it is very important to get specialized treatment at this point as soon as possible to prevent this from developing into other conditions like a heart attack or diabetes.
This stage is not reversible either but it can be stabilized with the help of a specialist. Most people who experience severe periodontitis stage 4 tend to get their remaining teeth removed and get full dental implants. The problem with this is that dental implants can also get gum disease if not cleaned properly, and it is much more difficult to treat the disease when it appears on an implant.
The stages of periodontitis have a progression rate which specialists use to prescribe the best treatment for patients according to the stage they’re in. The disease is divided into three categories:
- Grade A (slow progressing)
- Grade B (moderately progressing)
- Grade C (rapidly progressing)
It is crucial to know that periodontitis is more dangerous the younger you are, therefore no age group is exempt from the damage the disease can do.
How To Keep Your Gums Healthy
We just explained what can happen if you don’t take care of your gums, now it is time to share how to actually keep them healthy and away from harm.
The number one tip for having healthy gums involves brushing your teeth at least twice a day, as we’ve been recommended throughout this article. Fluoride toothpaste is advised to be used and you should brush your teeth along the gum line to get rid of all bacteria and build-up plaque.
It is important that you use a good toothbrush and replace yours every three to four months because they can do the opposite of looking after your gums. Apart from this, dentists recommend flossing between your teeth and rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash once a day to keep your mouth extra protected from harm.
Visit your dentist for a check-up twice a year, or more if you need it, and don’t wait to have a massive infection or your gums inflamed, the minute you see your gums bleeding please schedule an appointment. When you see an oral health specialist, keep them updated on any changes in your health such as having diabetes, being pregnant, entering menopause, etc. Some conditions can be more susceptible to gingivitis, therefore it is crucial to pay detailed attention to them.
Another way to keep your gums healthy and that helps with receding gums is limiting your sugary drinks and snacks. An extra amount of sugar can damage your teeth and your gums and cause irreversible damage, as well as make certain diseases worse like gingivitis and periodontitis. Eating a balanced diet is the way to go if you’re looking to stop the progression of periodontal disease. High-fiber fruits and vegetables have been said to be of great help in these cases, plus you’ll have a healthy body overall as well.
Finally, if you smoke, do everything in your power to quit since those who smoke are more likely to develop build-up tartar and plaque and up to four times more likely to develop periodontal disease than people who don’t smoke (2).