Dental hygienists are all about the teeth. We stress the importance of a beautiful smile and keeping the teeth healthy and clean. But the gums are equally important. Gums help keep the teeth in the mouth, attaching them by ligaments to the upper and lower jaw. In order for the mouth to be truly healthy both the teeth and the gums need to be healthy. Bleeding gums indicate a diseased state. In this post I'll address gingivitis, the reversible form of gum disease.
Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums and means that there is bacteria (in the form of plaque or hardened plaque - also called tartar or calculus) that is not being removed properly. The gums will bleed and appear soft, spongy and red.
It is important to remember that bleeding gums are not normal yet there are many people who just accept it. There isn't any other part of the body, that if it bled, would not cause alarm. Just imagine: You are in the shower, you start to wash your arm and as you touch it with your washcloth, it begins to bleed. You wouldn't think 'maybe I'm washing my arm too hard' or 'oh, that again?' - you'd get yourself to the doctor and say 'Hey! My arm is bleeding here - HELLOOOO." Bleeding gums are a sign of disease and infection. Puffy, bleeding gums mean that there is plaque bacteria present and your body is trying to fight it off.
Flossing everyday is a great way to reduce that bacteria and keep your gums in tip top shape. It cleans in between the teeth where a toothbrush can't reach and helps to strengthen the gums. Only brushing and not flossing is like washing your face and hair but never washing your ears - you're not getting the whole job done. If your gums are bleeding when you floss, don't let it discourage you. Many people stop flossing because their gums bleed but this is the exact opposite of what they should do. Continue to floss daily, using proper technique, and the bleeding will eventually stop.
Brushing also keeps the gums healthy. Brushing the teeth at the gumline and sweeping away the plaque also keeps bacteria in check. (Please see my post on proper brushing technique.) Rinses, like Listerine, can also help reduce plaque levels but still are no substitute for flossing. If you floss regularly and properly you will greatly improve the health of your gums and your teeth. For a great video on flossing, please view the following from the Colgate website http://www.colgate.com/app/CP/US/EN/OC/Information/Video-Library/How-to-Floss.cvsp
Taking care of your gums will help you keep your teeth and mouth healthy throughout your life.
(Next post: The Gums, Part II - Periodontitis)
This blog is not intended to replace dental or medical care nor treat or diagnose any condition.