You use your mouth every single day, and you probably have no idea how healthy your gums really are.
Signs that your gums are in good shape:
- Are light to medium pink
- Look and feel firm
- You have no blood when spitting after you brush and flossing shouldn't feel uncomfortable.
If this is not the case for you then your gums might be in need of some TLC—and you're not alone. Nearly half of adults over 30 have some form of periodontal (gum) disease, which happens when bacteria infect the gums and bones that support the teeth.
The good news is that having gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease, is one of the few occasions in which you can turn back time.
It’s still a reversible situation. When gingivitis progresses into periodontitis, however, the bacteria spreads below the gum line and can even affect the bone, which may eventually lead to tooth loss.
Your oral health can often let you know whether something’s up with the rest of your body. It can even affect how the rest of your body functions. Here's what you need to know.
Are your gums fleeing away from your teeth?
You may be stressed out or have sleep apnea.
Bruxism, grinding your teeth at night while you sleep, puts a lot of pressure on your gum line, teeth, and jawbones, which can ultimately lead to gum recession. This can make your teeth look longer than usual, and it can also lead to sensitivity if enough of the tooth gets exposed.
While grinding your teeth can happen due to health issues like anxiety and stress, it’s also commonly linked with sleep apnea. Sleep apnea happens when your throat muscles relax, which can block your airway and obstruct your breathing, and according to the National Sleep Foundation, nearly one in four people with obstructive sleep apnea grind their teeth while they sleep.
It's important to manage bruxism with a bite guard, which is a non-invasive way to protect people's teeth from cracking. It allows people to continue to grind but not traumatize their teeth. But, if your teeth grinding is related to sleep apnea, it's key to address that, too. There are various forms of bite guards for bruxism, including some that are meant to alleviate sleep apnea—talk to the us to figure out if one is right for you.
If your gums are receding, you might just be using a toothbrush that’s too hard or too old, or brushing too intensely. We recommend replacing your toothbrush every 3-4 months (or if the bristles look frayed), and only using toothbrushes with soft bristles.
Sores on your gums could be an indication of herpes.
There are two strains of the virus that causes herpes: HSV-1 and HSV-2.
These painful sores often pop up on the border of the mouth where the lips meet the skin (cold sores). But they can also break out inside the mouth, including on the gums. If that’s about to happen, you’ll likely feel some tingling, burning, or itching before the sores show up, then eventually you'll spot the blisters. An outbreak can last for days, and it can take two to four weeks for the blisters to fully heal. If you think you have a herpes-related sore on your gums or elsewhere, get in touch with your doctor, who can prescribe you an antiviral drug to potentially accelerate your healing.
Pale gums could be a sign that you have anaemia.
Healthy gums can be light to medium pink, or if you have dark skin, sometimes purple or brown. While deep, angry-looking pinks or reds can be cause for concern, so can colours on the other side of the spectrum. Super pale gums can be a sign of anaemia (your red blood cell count is low or you don’t have enough of the iron-rich protein haemoglobin). Haemoglobin is what gives blood its colour, and without enough of it, you may notice paleness, including your gums.
If you have pale gums and other symptoms of anaemia, like fatigue and dizziness, you should bring it up with your doctor—especially because pale gums may be masking signs of gum disease.
Dry gums could be a symptom of immune system issues.
Sjogren's syndrome is an autoimmune disorder, meaning it happens when your immune system mistakenly attacks your body. This condition affects the mucous membranes of your eyes and mouth, which can result in lowered levels of tears and saliva, leading to dry mouth, including your gums. When your gums are dry, it can contribute to or exacerbate gum disease.
Sjogren's syndrome also often occurs alongside rheumatic diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. Of course, that’s not to say if you have inflammation in your gums you definitely have an autoimmune condition. But if you have gums that are dry enough to bother you, it’s definitely worth bringing up at your next appointment.