How to identify, treat and prevent gum problems 

When we think of oral health, it’s usually our teeth that first spring to mind. After all, there’s no better indicator of a healthy mouth than a beautiful white smile, right? Wrong. In fact, the clearest indicator of good oral health - and good health in general - are our gums.


Often overlooked and underappreciated, the gums are the unsung heroes of the mouth, keeping our teeth firmly in place, providing strength and cushioning, and permitting us to make all those chewing and grinding motions essential for food consumption and digestion. Which is why maintaining healthy, disease-free gums is an essential part of any good oral healthcare routine.

What your gums reveal about your lifestyle

You can tell a lot about a person’s overall health just by looking at their gums. Don’t believe us? Here are just a few of the lifestyle habits that can be identified simply by taking a look inside your mouth:


Poor diet - our bodies require a host of vitamins and nutrients to keep our gums in peak condition. Inflamed or bleeding gums, which are often the precursors of gum disease, can indicate a diet that is low in iron, zinc, magnesium, folate or Vitamins A and C.


Smoking - if you’re a smoker, then your gums will be sure to let everyone know about it. Smoking weakens your body’s immune system, making it harder to fight off gum infection and also making it more difficult for damaged gums to heal.


Excessive alcohol consumption - studies have shown that the drying effect alcohol has on the mouth could increase the build-up of plaque (the soft sticky film made up of invisible masses of bacteria that can lead to gum disease(1).  By inhibiting the production of saliva, which serves to neutralize the acids caused by plaque, it creates the perfect environment for bacteria and disease to flourish.


Did you know your gums can even make predictions about the future? Although the jury’s still out on exactly why, studies have shown a correlation between severe gum disease and the development of coronary artery disease. What’s more, it’s possible to develop other chronic health problems as a result of poor gum health. When your mouth is full of inflamed, broken tissue, it makes it easier for bacteria to enter the bloodstream and cause problems elsewhere in the body(2).


(1) www.perio.org/consumer/alcohol-negative-effect-on-gum-health


(2) www.healthofchildren.com/S/Staphylococcal-Infections.html

What is gum disease?

Many people assume that gum disease is a rare condition that affects the few. Unfortunately, the truth is that gum disease is quite common, affecting around 20% of Australian adults (3) and it's the most common cause of tooth loss.


Gum disease exists very much on a sliding scale. It starts as a mild inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) but, if left untreated, can develop into something much more serious, known as periodontitis. 

Healthy gums versus unhealthy gums

Healthy gums should be a light pink colour. If they’re a deeper pink or red, if they bleed when brushed, or if they’re puffy and tender to the touch, this may be a sign of gingivitis. This is an accumulation of bacteria, otherwise known as plaque, that is brought on by inadequate oral hygiene. Left untreated, this in turn hardens into tartar, which is hard to remove. Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease, and is treatable with improved oral hygiene. If left unchecked, it can worsen into periodontal disease, causing permanent damage to the mouth and jaw, eventually leading to loss of teeth.

Three warning signs that you could have gingivitis


1. Gums bleed when brushed

2. Gums are a deep pink or red colour

3. Gums are puffy or tender to the touch


(3) www.bupa.com.au/health-and-wellness/health-information/az-health-information/gum-disease

How do I treat gingivitis?

Gingivitis is easily treatable – especially when caught in its early stages. Establishing an effective oral healthcare routine is key.  Unfortunately, manual toothbrushes are not very accurate - particularly when brushing tricky areas like the gums - so even people who brush regularly are not immune.  Using a Philips Sonicare electric toothbrush makes it easier to reverse gingivitis thanks to its sweeping brush head, which helps you get to the harder-to-reach parts of your mouth that normal toothbrushes can’t reach. It also allows you to use a gentler touch, avoiding jabbing actions that can inflict further pain on your poor inflamed gums.

What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease, or periodontitis, is the advanced form of gingivitis. Its name refers to the inflammation of the periodontium, which are the tissues that surround and support the teeth. This leads to the recession of the gums from the teeth, and as bacteria begin to thrive in the resulting ‘pockets’, they break down the bone and connective tissue that hold the teeth in place. Periodontitis is a serious problem that may require surgical treatment.

What causes periodontitis and how is it treated?

Our mouths are breeding grounds for bacteria. It’s in your saliva and the food you eat, and it grows on your teeth if you don’t brush them. Periodontitis is actually a bacterial infection that starts when plaque is left for too long on the teeth, causing inflammation in and around the gums. It then begins to pull the gums back from the teeth, exposing the bone beneath.


Treatment for periodontitis depends on how severe the case is. In milder cases, professional dental cleaning can remove all excess plaque and tartar from your teeth. Scaling and removing plaque from beneath the gum line but, in severe cases, surgical treatment may be required. 

Five things you could be doing now to prevent gum disease and periodontitis

As with all health issues, prevention is always better than cure. Here are five foolproof ways to help keep gum disease at bay:


1. Use an electric toothbrush - if you’ve not done so already, invest in a good quality electric toothbrush to ensure plaque doesn’t build up around the gums, such as the Philips Sonicare Gum Health toothbrush.


2. Floss morning and night - there’s a good reason your dentist always tells you to floss! If you’re not a fan of the fiddly traditional method, try the Philips Sonicare Airfloss Ultra which uses micro droplets of air and water to clean between and around the teeth.


3. Have a cup of tea - be kind to your gums by trading that morning coffee hit for a cup of antioxidant-rich green or black tea. The polyphenols contained in tea are known to reduce the oral bacteria which causes plaque, while it’s also packed with fluoride to strengthen your teeth.


4. Quit smoking - as if there weren’t enough reasons to quit already, smoking can double your risk of developing gum disease. Enough said.


5. Eat your greens - ward off inflamed gum tissue by enjoying a diet that is high in magnesium and Vitamins A & C (found in artichokes, broccoli, green beans and spinach) 

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