When you look at someone’s smile, what do you notice first?
Studies show that most people focus on someone’s teeth because they are most conscientious about their own teeth when it comes to their smile.
Focusing on your teeth isn’t a bad thing because your teeth do a lot of work for you after all. They aid in talking, smiling, chewing, and even laughing. From a visual point, it’s very understandable why you want good-looking teeth.
In dentistry, the teeth are like the exterior showcase of your house. Most people want the exterior of their house to look appealing to those who can see it from the outside. When the outside shows well, it can leave a good impression on people. Something interesting about a house, though, is that looks don’t tell everything about a place. The outside doesn’t indicate the under-structurings of the house nor reveals much about the inside.
Your mouth is very much this same way. Your teeth may look near perfect; they may even all be in alignment and sparkly white. Just like the outside of a house, these visual tooth characteristics don’t tell everything about your mouth. Just as a building can have structural problems hidden by aesthetically pleasing materials, so your perfect teeth can have underlying structural problems from poor gum health.
What Are Gums?
Your gums are the reddish tissue that surrounds your teeth. Gum tissue is also referred to as gingival tissue or gingiva. Just like our teeth serve various essential functions, so does our gum tissue.
Your gum tissue, along with periodontal ligaments, acts as an anchoring system for your teeth. Thanks to these supporting structures, you probably laugh and chew without worrying that your teeth will fall out.
Your gum tissue also helps to keep food from getting onto the root surfaces of your teeth. This is critical for gums because the root surface areas are not protected by your teeth’ hard, enamel layer. Your gum tissue, when healthy, protects your teeth from getting cavities on the root surfaces.
Another thing that your gum tissue helps protect against is tooth sensitivity. Typically the root of the tooth can be a more sensitive area, and the gum tissue that covers it helps to insulate it and protect it from exposure to food, liquids, air, and temperature changes.
What Does Healthy Gum Tissue Look Like?
The appearance of healthy gum tissue may vary a little from person to person, but healthy gum tissue is typically associated with these characteristics:
- The tissue is tight against the teeth.
- The tissue is firm to the touch.
- The tissue has a pinkish-red hue.
- The tissue is not tender upon brushing or touching the tissue.
- Teeth are held securely by gum tissue and are not mobile.
Tissue that is loose and low on a tooth may be a sign of periodontal disease. Taking measurements and doing other various assessments will allow your dentist to diagnose your condition correctly.
Gum tissue that is light pink or white in appearance may indicate signs of anemia. Red gum tissue usually indicates inflammation in the gum tissue. Sometimes this gum tissue can be more tender to brushing and instrumentation, although not always.
How Can You Keep Your Gums Healthy?
The good news is that there are many things you can do at home to keep your gums healthy!
Brushing twice a day, flossing once a day, and visiting your dentist for routine cleanings and exams are the best steps to keeping your gums healthy.
That may sound overly simple, but if you routinely do those things, you will help keep your gum tissue healthy and hopefully avoid needing special gum treatment in the future.
What Do I Do If I Have Bleeding Gums?
Bleeding gums are not healthy, and it’s usually a sign that inflammation is present. Inflammation can be caused by many different things, so it’s best to have a doctor evaluate your specific situation.
Sometimes, bleeding is acute, possibly caused by something getting stuck in the tissue or by bacteria that has sat around too long. If this is the case, removing the bacteria through good brushing and flossing will usually eliminate the bleeding, and the area should heal fairly quickly.
If it has been more than two weeks that you have noticed bleeding and you have improved home care with good brushing and flossing, then we recommend seeing your dentist and having them evaluate your situation.
If it is determined that your bleeding gums can’t be reversed with better home care or if they have progressed to where the supporting structures of your teeth are being affected, a special type of cleaning may be required. This treatment is sometimes called a deep cleaning or scaling and root planing. This type of cleaning allows your hygienist to break up the harmful bacteria causing problems with your gum tissue. This often allows your body to heal, and then you can better maintain things at home.
Smoking And Gum Health
Smoking and using tobacco products negatively affects your gum health. With the use of these products, your gum tissue gets less blood flow and thus less oxygen. This greatly reduces your gum tissue’s ability to heal because tobacco interferes with the normal function of your gum tissue cells.
Kicking the tobacco habit requires consistency and determination. If you are trying to quit, these may be simple steps that may help guide you:
- Write down your reasons for quitting.
- Consider the different ways of quitting.
- Talk to your doctor about treatment options.
- Make a plan to stop.
- Find a counseling service to encourage and support you in the process.
Prevention Versus Treatment
In the dental world, prevention is key. Taking the daily steps to keep your mouth as healthy as possible is the best remedy for helping you to avoid tooth and gum problems altogether.
It is important to note that research shows that gum disease can have genetic factors. If you find yourself in this situation where you have done everything right and still struggle with gum disease, don’t lose hope or beat yourself up. We have seen that even though some people take all the right steps in caring for their mouth, they still struggle with gum disease. Our dental team is here to partner with you and get your gum tissue back on track!