Does your toothpaste come out pink after you brush? Does flossing sound like a nightmare because it hurts your gums?
Gum disease is one of the most common chronic health problems in the country. In fact, about half of all adults in the US have gum disease.
Gum disease puts you at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, pancreatitis, arthritis, and complications from diabetes among other serious health problems.
This quick guide will break down the essentials so you can keep your gums as healthy as possible and enjoy a lifetime of beautiful smiles!
WHAT DO HEALTHY GUMS LOOK LIKE?
How can you tell if your gums are healthy? Here are a few key things to look for:
The ideal color when your gums are healthy depends in part on your skin tone. Fair-skinned people usually have pink gums, and darker-skinned people may have gums with a coral tone. You may also have melanin deposits that create areas of very dark skin on your gums. The important thing is that healthy gums should not be red or blue-red. This redness might just be at the peaks of the gum tissue between your teeth, in isolated regions, or throughout all of your gum tissue.
Your gums should be firm and resilient. Spongy gum tissue indicates inflammation and a build-up of fluid that damages the support structures in your skin like collagen and keratin. As collagen and keratin break down, the tissue loses its scaffolding and becomes softer and falls away from the teeth.
Gums support your teeth in the socket. They should be tight to the teeth and come to sharp points between the teeth. Gums that are rounded and puffy are inflamed. Gums can also become overgrown with certain medications, health conditions, and appliances like braces.
The surface of your gums should be stippled, which means it has little dimples like the skin of an orange. When gums get inflamed, they puff up, which stretches the surface of the skin, giving it a shiny, smooth appearance.
Bleeding is the number one criterion for diagnosing gum disease. Inflamed gums bleed more easily because there is excess fluid and the tissue itself is more fragile. You may notice bleeding when you floss, brush, eat, or even at random. Remember, healthy gums don’t bleed! It's worth noting that nicotine constricts the tiny blood vessels near the surface of the gums, so they may not bleed even though you have gum disease. Many ex-smokers complain that their gums didn’t start bleeding until after they quit and think that quitting smoking is what made their gums start bleeding. In reality, it’s that your gums finally have good circulation again!
HOW DOES YOUR DENTIST TRACK YOUR GUM HEALTH?
Your dental health team needs to keep detailed records of how your gum health changes over time. Many of the diagnostic criteria for gum disease are hard to quantify. There are two main ways we can put exact numbers to your gum health: x-rays and periodontal charting.
Your gums don’t show up on normal x-rays, or if they do, they’re very faint. So how do x-rays have anything to do with gum disease?
In its early stages, gingivitis only affects the skin tissue of your gums. Left untreated, it starts to damage deeper structures like the ligaments around the roots of your teeth.
As gum disease progresses, it damages the crest of bone that supports your teeth as well. We can identify bone damage and keep a close eye on its progress with your regular x-rays.
Have you ever wondered what your hygienist or dentist is doing when they prod your gums and call out a bunch of numbers? You might hear three-number sequences like 3,2,3 or 5,3,5, and so on.
Periodontal charting is the best way we can track the size and position of your gums.
The top edge of your gums is not connected to the teeth, sort of like the cuticle of your nails. We use a specialized ruler to gently measure how deep this unattached gum tissue is.
These numbers are millimeters of unattached gum tissue. We can tell if your gums are enlarged or swollen, if you have receding gums, and keep track of where the gum tissue attaches to the root of your tooth.
Ideally, these numbers should be under 3. 5 and above are numbers that get our attention. At 5mm, your toothbrush and floss cannot effectively clean out the bacteria in the deepest areas of your gums. That puts you at higher risk of progressive gum disease and bone loss.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU HAVE GUM DISEASE?
If you are showing signs of gum disease, we’re here for you! No matter how advanced your gum disease is, we can help. By thoroughly removing build-up below the gums, flushing bacteria out, and helping you stick to a good home care routine, we can stabilize your gum health.
If you’ve already lost teeth or have teeth that are no longer salvageable due to advanced periodontal disease, we can rebuild your smile and protect your health by treating your gum disease.
If you’re worried about your gum health, we can help. Schedule your next dental health check-up with our team in Winter Park, FL and start enjoying better health!