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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!