Gum injuries have many possible causes, but some of them are actually self-induced. With the help of your dentist, you can identify the activities and habits that irritate your delicate gum tissue so you're not doing damage without realizing it.
1. Overly Aggressive Brushing
You may think you need to use a lot of pressure and a hard-bristled toothbrush to get your teeth and gums clean, but this is never a necessary approach and, in fact, can lead to oral health problems that include gum irritation. As long as you're thorough, gentle pressure is all that is required to remove food and plaque from your teeth. Be sure to use short, precise strokes and take care to clean each tooth's entire surface.
When brushing, choose a soft-bristled toothbrush such as the Colgate® Wave Gum Comfort Toothbrush. Soft-bristled toothbrushes are best at cleaning your teeth effectively without aggravating your delicate gum tissue in the process.
2. Improper Flossing Technique
Just as overzealous tooth brushing can irritate your gums, the same is true for flossing. It isn't especially helpful to use a lot of pressure or vigorous back-and-forth movements to dislodge food and plaque. This aggressive technique can lead to further gum irritation or even bleeding gums. And of course, it's just not comfortable.
To keep your gums safe while removing debris, be sure to use the same gentle approach while flossing. Move the floss slowly back and forth, up and down and gently against the sides of your teeth. With this level of pressure, flossing around the base of your teeth can ensure you reach the food beneath your gumline; too much force can make this easy to overlook. Avoid pushing the floss into this area abruptly, or snapping it into place, as doing so can cut or bruise your gums as well.
3. Home Whitening Treatments
Peroxide-based whitening agents will whiten your teeth, but if they come into contact with your gum tissue, they can cause similar irritation. Over-the-counter whitening strips or trays aren't designed to fit the contours of your mouth, and may allow the peroxide to touch your gums.
You can still whiten your teeth at home without irritating your gumline with the help of your dentist, who can create a custom-fitted whitening tray for this purpose. This tray will ensure that the bleaching products only come into contact with your teeth and not the delicate tissue beneath it.
4. Dietary Choices
Keep in mind the foods you eat can also contribute to gum irritation. Hard candies or crunchy items, like potato chips or nuts, can scrape against your gums and cause irritation naturally as you chew. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are another possible cause of gum irritation, so make sure your diet provides the substances you need to maintain a hardy mouth. Anemia, specifically due to a low vitamin-C count, can lead to swollen or bleeding gums, according to National Institutes of Health (NIH).
If your gums are irritated, see your dentist right away for an examination. He or she will be able to identify the cause of the irritation and help you prevent it in the future.