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What does healthy gums look and feel like?

What does healthy gums look and feel like?

Do your gums ever feel a little tender or swollen? Healthy gums do more than just keep your smile looking good; they’re the bedrock of good oral health. Strong gums support your teeth, keeping them firmly in place and acting as a barrier against harmful bacteria. But how can you tell if your gums are functioning at their best?

How healthy gums look

Colour: The colour of healthy gums varies from person to person. For people with lighter skin tones, healthy gums typically have a light pink colour, while healthy gums of people with darker skin may be darker pink, brown or even black. This diversity is completely normal and, on its own, doesn’t indicate any health issues. Additionally, the colour of our gums may also change over time with natural hormonal shifts, such as those related to menstruation or menopause, or in response to medication use.

Shape and fit: Healthy gums should snugly wrap around your teeth, forming a tight seal like a perfectly fitted glove. This means there are no gaps or spaces between your teeth and gums. These spaces can trap food and bacteria, potentially leading to gum disease.

Healthy Gums

Texture: Healthy gums feel firm and smooth when you touch them, softer than the roof of your mouth but firmer than the inside of your cheek. If you gently run your finger along your gumline, you should feel a slightly ridged surface that follows the shape of your teeth. They exhibit firm elasticity, such that if you apply light pressure with the pad of a clean finger, they immediately regain their shape when you take your finger away. This texture and resilience are essential parts of the gum tissue’s role in maintaining oral health and stability.

Healthy Gums

How healthy gums feel

Healthy gums should feel strong and springy to the touch, not soft or squishy. They should not be tender, sore or bleed easily.

When brushing and flossing, there shouldn’t be any pain or bleeding. However, if you’re new to flossing, you might experience some minor bleeding for the first few days. This is because you’re disturbing plaque buildup that can irritate your gums. This bleeding should subside completely as you establish a flossing routine and your gums become healthier. If the bleeding persists after a week or two, it’s important to consult your dentist to rule out any underlying issues.

Signs of unhealthy gums

Healthy gums shouldn’t show any of the following signs. If you notice any of these, it could be a sign of gum disease. Early intervention is key, so be sure to consult your dentist if you experience any of these symptoms:

Do your gums look redder or darker than usual?

While gums can differ in natural colour, a sudden change towards redness, inflammation or even darker colours like purple can be a warning sign. This redness suggests irritation or infection and could mean your gums are fighting off harmful bacteria.

Do your gums look redder or darker than usual?

While gums can differ in natural colour, a sudden change towards redness, inflammation or even darker colours like purple can be a warning sign. This redness suggests irritation or infection and could mean your gums are fighting off harmful bacteria.

Do your gums look redder or darker than usual?

While gums can differ in natural colour, a sudden change towards redness, inflammation or even darker colours like purple can be a warning sign. This redness suggests irritation or infection and could mean your gums are fighting off harmful bacteria.

Do your gums look redder or darker than usual?

While gums can differ in natural colour, a sudden change towards redness, inflammation or even darker colours like purple can be a warning sign. This redness suggests irritation or infection and could mean your gums are fighting off harmful bacteria.

dark bleeding gums
Do your gums look redder or darker than usual?

While gums can differ in natural colour, a sudden change towards redness, inflammation or even darker colours like purple can be a warning sign. This redness suggests irritation or infection and could mean your gums are fighting off harmful bacteria.

Do your gums look redder or darker than usual?

While gums can differ in natural colour, a sudden change towards redness, inflammation or even darker colours like purple can be a warning sign. This redness suggests irritation or infection and could mean your gums are fighting off harmful bacteria.

Do your gums look redder or darker than usual?

While gums can differ in natural colour, a sudden change towards redness, inflammation or even darker colours like purple can be a warning sign. This redness suggests irritation or infection and could mean your gums are fighting off harmful bacteria.

Have you noticed pus coming from between your gum and tooth?

This is a clear sign of advanced gum disease. Pus indicates a serious infection that requires immediate dental attention to prevent further complications and potential damage to the bone supporting your teeth.

What is gum disease?

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, occurs due to the accumulation of plaque, a sticky film that contains bacteria. If plaque isn’t removed through regular brushing and flossing, it can harden into tartar (calculus) like cement on the teeth, making it much harder to remove. This irritates the gums and creates the perfect environment for more bacteria to grow. Here’s how gum disease progresses through different stages:

dark gums

Gingivitis: This is the earliest and most reversible stage of gum disease. Gums become inflamed, red and may bleed easily during brushing or flossing. You might also experience bad breath at this point. With good oral hygiene and professional cleaning, gingivitis can be completely reversed.

Moderate periodontitis: As the disease progresses, the pockets between the teeth and gums become deeper, and more bone loss occurs. Teeth may become loose and sensitive, and chewing may become difficult. Loose teeth can also shift, causing problems with your bite. Treatment options at this stage may involve additional deep cleaning procedures or gum surgery to reshape the gum tissue and remove tartar deposits.

Early periodontitis: If gingivitis is left untreated, the infection spreads deeper into the gums and jawbone. Pockets form between the teeth and gums, trapping more plaque and bacteria. The gums may start to recede or pull away from the teeth, exposing the tooth root and potentially increasing tooth sensitivity. At this stage, some bone loss may occur. Treatment from a dentist, including scaling and root planing (deep cleaning), is necessary to control the infection.

Advanced periodontitis: Significant bone loss has occurred in the most severe stage, and the teeth may become very loose or even fall out. Additionally, advanced gum disease can damage the jawbone, potentially impacting your general health. Treatment becomes more complex and may involve surgery, bone grafting or even tooth extraction.

The good news is that gum disease is preventable and treatable in its early stages. Practicing good oral hygiene and scheduling regular dental checkups can keep your gums healthy and your smile strong.

Why maintaining healthy gums matters

Healthy gums are part of the bedrock that supports your overall health. Research has linked gum disease to serious chronic health issues like heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Healthy gums also support effective chewing, which aids in proper digestion and nutrient absorption. Taking care of your mouth goes beyond aesthetics; it’s a vital investment in your long-term health and quality of life.

Tips for maintaining healthy gums

Brushing: Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste for two minutes, using a soft-bristled brush. Gently massage the gumline at a 45-degree angle to remove plaque and stimulate blood flow.

Flossing: Floss daily to remove plaque and bacteria from between your teeth and along the gumline. You can use string floss, a water flosser or interdental brushes — whichever you find most comfortable and effective.

Dental check-ups: Visit your dentist regularly, ideally every six months, for professional evaluation and cleaning. Stay proactive!

Balanced diet: Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, dairy products and whole grains. These foods provide essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin C and calcium, which are important for gum health. Limit sugary snacks and drinks to reduce the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.

Prioritise Your Gum Health

Regular dental visits, a nutritious tooth-friendly diet and a comprehensive oral care routine will help ensure your gums and teeth remain strong and healthy for the longest time. If you notice changes in your gums, such as redness, swelling, bleeding, or pain, consult your dentist right away to prevent minor issues from becoming serious. Keep in mind that your gum health is foundational to your beautiful smile and overall well-being!

New studies show gum disease may increase severity of COVID-19

New studies show gum disease may increase severity of COVID-19

Everybody on the planet knows about COVID19. Yet with each day, come new discoveries about this mysterious disease. For many, experiencing COVID19 is no more severe than catching a cold. But for others, they experience far worse outcomes such as respiratory failure and death. The risk for contracting a severe form of COVID19 is higher if you have certain medical conditions including cancer, kidney disease, obesity, type 1/2 diabetes, respiratory conditions, high blood pressure and heart disease, as well as being in an advanced age group. Now, recent new studies reveal that one other health condition may also increase your risk of experiencing severe COVID19 – untreated gum disease and poor oral health.

What is the link between untreated gum disease & COVID19?

German researchers have discovered that when COVID19 patients experienced an inflammatory response leading to respiratory failure, their levels of a pro-inflammatory cytokine called interleukin-6 (IL-6) were elevated. This is the same cytokine implicated in the phrase “cytokine storm” – a term coined to describe the out-of-control immune response occurring in patients with severe COVID19 and other serious auto-immune disorders. People with chronic, untreated gum disease (periodontal disease) experience higher levels of IL-6 as a result of the body’s constant inflammatory response to infected gum tissue. Since elevated levels of IL-6 indicate a strong potential for respiratory complications in COVID19 patients, the authors of the study concluded that treating gum disease and decreasing IL-6 levels may help prevent or reduce severe COVID19 complications.

Earlier British study correlates German findings on IL-6

In June 2020, an English study also found that high IL-6 levels, along with a high oral bacterial load in the mouth, were significant risk factors for severe COVID19 respiratory complications. Their advice: keep good oral hygiene, regular checkups and get gum disease treated!

Treating gum disease to reduce IL-6 levels in the body

The treatment for periodontal disease is quite simple. It is performed by a dentist in a basic dental procedure known as a scale and root planning – a deep dental clean right down to the roots. During this treatment, all oral bacteria are removed above and below the gum line – keeping your teeth and gums healthy. Once gum disease is being properly managed and treated, the body’s inflammatory response winds down along with lower levels of IL-6.

Resources:

Herold, T., Jurinovic, V., Arnreich, C., Lipworth, B. J., Hellmuth, J. C., von Bergwelt-Baildon, M., Klein, M., & Weinberger, T. (2020). Elevated levels of IL-6 and CRP predict the need for mechanical ventilation in COVID-19. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology146(1), 128-136.e4.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2020.05.008 Sampson, V., Kamona, N., & Sampson, A. (2020). Could there be a link between oral hygiene and the severity of SARS-CoV-2 infections? British Dental Journal228(12), 971–975.  https://doi.org/10.1038/s41415-020-1747-8 Sampson, V. (2020). Oral hygiene risk factor. British Dental Journal228(8), 569.  https://doi.org/10.1038/s41415-020-1545-3

Gum disease sets off Alzheimer’s biomarkers in cognitively healthy adults

Gum disease sets off Alzheimer’s biomarkers in cognitively healthy adults

In a recent 2021 study from New York University, oral health researchers found that cognitively healthy older adults with harmful oral bacteria experienced a key Alzheimer’s disease biomarker called amyloid beta.

Researchers found that amyloid beta was more likely to be detected in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of subjects with high concentrations of oral pathogens below the gumline. When amyloid beta accumulates, it forms hard, insoluble clumps called amyloid plaques. Amyloid plaques have been argued by researchers to be the main disruptors of communication between brain cells in Alzheimer’s patients.

The U.S. researchers identified oral pathogens including Porphyromonas, Fretibacterium and Prevotella, and pro-biotic bacterial species including Actinomyces, Capnocytophaga and Corynebacterium.

Fortunately, the results of the study showed that subjects with higher levels of pro-biotic bacteria had decreased gum inflammation. This may have a protective effect against Alzheimer’s. The subjects with better gum health were also less likely to have Amyloid beta biomarkers in their CSF.

Despite the need for further studies with a larger sampling of subjects, the researchers were able to ascertain that the balance or imbalance of good & bad oral bacteria had a modulating effect on amyloid levels and the expression of amyloid lesions.

Reference:

Kamer, A., Pushalkar, S., Gulivindala, D., Butler, T., Li, Y., Annam, K., Glodzik, L., Ballman, K., Corby, P., Blennow, K., Zetterberg, H., Saxena, D. and Leon, M., 2021. Periodontal dysbiosis associates with reduced CSF Aβ42 in cognitively normal elderly. Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring, 13(1). Read the NYU study here: https://alz-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/dad2.12172

Can oral bacteria cause Alzheimer’s disease?

Can oral bacteria cause Alzheimer’s disease?

Can oral bacteria cause Alzheimer’s disease?

Can oral bacteria cause Alzheimer’s disease?

Find out what the UK researchers are saying

If you have poor oral hygiene, you are at a higher risk of a number of oral health issues such as plaque, tartar, tooth decay, cavities and chronic gum disease (periodontal disease). Inadequate oral hygiene opens the door to potentially hundreds of pathogenic oral bacteria to your teeth and gums.

Other health consequences

Oral health issues may be only one of the consequences of allowing pathogenic oral bacteria to develop in your oral cavity. A number of clinical studies in recent years have established links between certain species of oral bacteria and Alzheimer’s disease.

These oral bacteria have the ability to migrate and colonise your brain tissue. The three main culprits identified so far are Porphyromonas gingivalis, Treponema denticola, and Tannerella forsythia. Check them out (in order).

These nasty little critters can infiltrate and infect your gums and even your jawbone – like termites in wood. Additionally, these bacteria can travel around your body and enter your brain on a regular basis.

How might oral bacteria trigger the onset of Alzheimer’s?

More studies need to be conducted to find a causative link between the suspect bacteria and Alzheimer’s disease. However, the UK researchers are working with the theory that if the brain is exposed repeatedly to these oral bacteria and their by-products, the subsequent immune response may result in death of neurons in the brain area associated with memory, as well as nerve cell death.

Only Alzheimer’s patients had the oral bacteria present in their brains

When the UK scientists tested non-Alzheimer’s patients for the bacteria, they discovered that none had the suspect bacteria present in their brain tissue, whereas all of the patients with Alzheimer’s disease did.

How can pathogenic oral bacteria be identified & eliminated from your body?

At present, the diagnosis and treatment of pathogenic oral bacteria can only be performed via an oral bacteria DNA test and anti-biotic treatment. Root planing, a dental treatment used to deep clean between the teeth and gums, is a treatment method that can only remove the plaque and calculus in those areas.

oral pathogen test for oral bacteria

Oral bacteria that can crawl their way into your brain

In 2014, UK scientists were first able to identify the presence of the three oral bacteria (listed above) in the brain tissue of living Alzheimer’s patients. The researchers established that at least two of the bacteria – once firmly established in the oral cavity – had the ability and versatility to enter the brain via two different pathways.

The first pathway was via the bloodstream where they could attach to red blood cells, and travel directly into the brain – where they get off because there are no immune checkpoints. What this means for patients with bleeding gums, is that every time they brush their teeth or eat food, a fresh influx of bacteria can enter the bloodstream and reach the brain in a matter of seconds.

The second pathway came as a surprise to the UK researchers. Since the bacteria are motile (capable of motion), they were able to “crawl” their way to the brain via the nerves that connect tooth roots to the brain – a short distance of a several centimetres.

References:

Singhrao, S. K., Harding, A., Poole, S., Kesavalu, L., & Crean, S. (2015). Porphyromonas gingivalis Periodontal Infection and Its Putative Links with Alzheimer’s Disease. Mediators of inflammation, 2015, 137357.

Poole, S., Singhrao, S. K., & Crean, S. J. (2014). Emerging evidence for associations between periodontitis and the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Faculty Dental Journal, 5(1), 38-42. doi:10.1308/204268514×13859766312719

Gum disease linked to faster cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients

Gum disease linked to faster cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients

Gum disease linked to faster cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients Numerous studies have shown that seniors with Alzheimer’s disease have an increased risk of developing gum disease (Periodontitis). Alzheimer’s patients are also at higher risk of health problems including infections, aspirations, loss of balance, malnutrition and dehydration. The main reason why Alzheimer’s patients are more vulnerable to gum disease is because of their reduced ability to take care of their own oral health and hygiene. If you lose your memory, you may simply forget to brush your teeth. But the arrow linking Alzheimer’s and gum disease may point in both directions. 

According to researchers at King’s College London and the University of Southampton, Alzheimer’s patients with gum disease declined at a rate six times faster than those without it. Professor Clive Holmes, senior researcher from the University of Southampton, said the results from their study (2016), showed that chronic inflammatory conditions, associated with gum disease, were detrimental to the progression of Alzheimer’s. “In just six months you could see the patients going downhill – it’s really quite scary.” When gum inflammation occurs, immune cells produce more antibodies.

This increases the overall levels of inflammation in the brain, which researchers have identified as the driving force behind the development of Alzheimer’s. And then there are the bacteria. In an earlier study (2013) from the University of Central Lancashire (UK), researchers identified a anaerobic bacterium called Porphyromonas gingivalis present in the brain tissue of Alzheimer’s patients – but not in the brains of healthy patients without the disease. This bug is usually found in chronic oral infections. When chronic inflammation factors compromise the impermeable blood-brain barrier, this type of oral bacteria can enter and travel freely within the brain. Once the bacteria has set up inside your brain, further inflammatory responses occur, which contribute to the formation of beta-amyloid plaques between the brain’s nerve cells (neurons). As this insoluble plaque hardens and accumulates, it binds strongly to the nerve cells, and affects their relay signals and your overall brain function – in other words, your ability to remember. 

The findings of the study showed that if gum disease can be controlled, it may help to slow down the development and impact of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in patients. And what are the best ways to prevent gum disease? Brushing your teeth, flossing and using a mouthwash regularly are recommended. Carers also need to ensure that Alzheimer’s patients lead a healthy lifestyle, and follow a good oral health and hygiene routine. However, if you already have gum disease, everyday activities, such as eating and brushing your teeth, may actually inject harmful bacteria into your bloodstream towards other parts of your body – including your brain.

In this case, it is advisable to seek professional treatment, guidance and support from your dentist or hygienist. There needs to be more research undertaken to fully understand and pinpoint the links between poor oral health and Alzheimer’s disease. But by maintaining good hygiene and controlling gum disease, you are taking steps in the right direction for a healthy mind and body – now and in the future. Sources: University of Southampton. (2016, March 10).” Link between gum disease and cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s.” PLOS/ONE University of Central Lancashire. (2013). “Determining the Presence of Periodontopathic Virulence Factors in Short-Term Postmortem Alzheimer’s Disease Brain Tissue”. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 2013, DOI: 10.3233/JAD-121918.