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Why should we pay attention to our gums?

Gums and the structures underneath it are the foundation which hold on to teeth and keep the teeth stable inside our mouths. If gums are not properly cared for, it could give rise to many issues. For example, receding gums can expose the root of the tooth which would give rise to sensitivity. Advanced gum disease can cause teeth to become loose, which not only makes it difficult to eat, but also complicates other dental treatment that you may need.

 

My gums are bleeding, should I be worried?

Bleeding gums are a sign of gum disease, so when should you start paying attention? A one-off event shouldn’t be worrying, but if it happens more than once or twice a week, you might have gum disease.

What is gum disease?

Gum disease is when the gums are inflamed because of bacteria. Tooth-brushing removes plaque which harbours the bacteria that damages our gums. But if tooth-brushing is not done properly, the stagnant bacteria would aggravate the gums, causing it to become red, swollen, and more prone to bleeding. Advanced gum disease can also cause loss of bone support around your teeth, leading to loose teeth.

Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.

When should I suspect I have gum disease?

There are some simple signs which signals to gum disease

– Bleeding gums

– Swollen, red and sore gums

– Bad breath

– Loose teeth

– Receding gums

– Increase in spacing between teeth or teeth shifting away from their original position

I brush my teeth twice everyday, why do I still have gum disease?

Our mouth is a complex space and it is difficult to see where you’re brushing. If some spaces are commonly missed, stagnant bacteria will lead to gum disease in that area. Hence it is important to clean your teeth twice a day, thoroughly and efficiently. This will be further elaborated later on in this article. Even with the most efficient cleaning, calculus (the hard white coating on your teeth) can still develop, which makes cleaning under them virtually impossible. Therefore it is important to visit your dentist for regular check-ups and scaling to remove the calculus, and provide yourself with an easy-to-clean field inside your mouth.

How often should I see my dentist?

For people with healthy teeth and gums, visits to the dentist should be done twice a year for check-up and a scaling (routine cleaning). If you have active gum disease, your dentist may want to see you more frequently, as often as every 3 months, to check on your gums and clean your teeth.

Can gum disease be treated?

Yes and no. The success of gum disease treatment is dependent on two factors: 1. The severity of your gum disease, and 2. How well you are cleaning your teeth at home. Early gum disease, gingivitis, is easy to treat as no permanent damage has been done to the underlying tissues. It will resolve with a routine clean at the dentist, coupled with effective tooth brushing (oral hygiene) regimes at home.

In advanced gum disease, periodontitis, the damage done to underlying structures, such as bone, cannot be reversed. However, your dentist can still help by doing a deep clean underneath the gums to reduce the inflammation and improve the situation. This also requires careful maintenance at home with proper oral hygiene practices.

Is a deep clean painful?

A deep clean underneath the gums may sound scary, but it is actually almost the same as a routine clean. Your dentist will give you some local anaesthetic which numbs up the gums before the cleaning starts, and the entire treatment should be pain-free. You might have a little soreness in the treated area after the treatment, but it will resolve after a few days and you can take simple painkillers to help ease the sore sensation.

What can I do at home to help prevent gum disease?

Practicing a good cleaning regime can reduce your risk of gum disease to the minimum. For tooth-brushing, you should brush twice a day for 2 minutes each time. For optimum results, aim your toothbrush at where the gums meet the teeth, and brush with gentle, circular motions. You should plan your brushing in a systematic manner and ensure all surfaces that can be reached by the toothbrush are brushed. Flossing or using tepe brushes in between teeth is also an important part of the cleaning regime. Your toothbrush can only reach the outside, flat surfaces of teeth and is unable to reach in between teeth. This space tends to accumulate plaque and bacteria and if not cleaned out can lead to gum problems and decay. It is recommended to use floss or tepe brushes to clean in between teeth once a day.

If you have active gum disease, your dentist may prescribe you an antibacterial mouthwash to use at home, make sure to use this according to the instructions given by your dentist.

What else should I know about gum disease?

Smoking increases the risk of gum disease, and it also makes the gums less likely to bleed, which delays detection of gum disease at home. Hence it is worth considering quitting smoking or changing to electronic cigarettes if you have gum disease. Your gums may start to bleed more right after you quit, but your gums should reverse to the state of a non-smoker given sufficient time.

People with diabetes are also more susceptible to gum disease due to the increased risk of infections. In turn, severe gum disease can also negatively affect the blood sugar level. To minimise risk for both conditions, it is important for diabetic patients to keep their diabetes under control and also keep up a good oral hygiene regime.

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About the Author
“Positive experiences in the dental setting goes a long way. I aim to provide quality dental care tailored to every patient’s individual needs.”
Dr Li Kexin

Dental Surgeon, NoFrills Dental

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