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How Sore Gums Relate To Your Oral Habits

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As a clinician, I see patients who complain of "toothache" all the time. And although the tooth itself is sometimes the source of the problem, more often the real culprit is the gum tissue. But who's ever heard of "gum ache"? Sore gums are a problem that people of all ages can experience, and for various reasons. The first step in identifying the source of your own pain is to recognise some of the most common explanations dental professionals can offer for this irritation.

Why Gums Get Sore

There are many reasons why soreness can occur in your gums – periodontal disease is just one of them. Brushing and flossing with too much pressure are both habits that can cause aching gums. In addition, eating things like crunchy cereal, chips or hot dishes can irritate your gums and cause discomfort due to the resulting abrasions or burns. And sometimes, when people follow a diet with too few vitamins or experience a high level of stress, their gums can respond in the same way.

Of course, germs are still considered the leading cause of gum pain. Gums contour the teeth and protect the small rubber-band-like fibers that attach the teeth to the bone. Inside the little area where gums meet your teeth is a tiny space where germs love to grow. As this space quickly fills with germs, it can lead to gum problems and periodontitis, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states are linked to these germs. Most often experienced by adults, gum disease is also more common in men.

Appearance of Inflamed Gums

Painful gums often appear red, purple, ulcerated or puffy. Tender gums, on the other hand, often bleed when you brush your teeth. If tender gums are left untreated, the attachment of the teeth to the bone can wear away, causing the tooth to come loose or even fall out.In other cases of sore gums, visual mouth sores can appear on the inside of the gums and cheeks. Sometimes these mouth sores are called canker sores - even dental professionals do not clearly understand these painful lesions. Some suspected causes of canker sores include allergies, changes in food habits, vitamin deficiencies and stress.

When Pain is Normal

When baby teeth erupt through the gums, they can feel quite uncomfortable. This usually occurs between the ages of four months and three years, and again between the ages of five and 14 years. Pain may also occur as a result of new orthodontic appliances, when the teeth begin to realign. Persistent gum tissue pain is not normal among adults, however, so if your gums do hurt, contact a dental professional to identify and reverse the cause of your discomfort. In addition, regular visits to a dental professional can keep the progression of this swelling from reaching a more serious stage of gum disease, called periodontitis.

Treatment of Sore Gums

Your first defence against sore gums lies in establishing a strong oral care routine that includes products to help reduce the growth of germs. Toothpastes that help remove germs are proven to be effective, and oral rinses can also assist in the healing process if you already have early signs of periodontal damage. Although overzealous technique can cause irritation, brushing and flossing are still absolutely necessary. Routine tooth brushing and flossing to help remove germs mechanically effectively decreases plaque in the mouth, especially in areas along the gumline.

Plaque (also called biofilm) is a sticky, often invisible mixture found on the surface of your teeth, made up of germs, leftover food and waste that the germs produce as they feed on oral debris. When left stuck along your gumline, this combination can result in painful gums. The longer you wait to remove it, the more time it has to damage your teeth and the surrounding tissue.

Advanced forms of gum disease are treatable conditions, but they're not always the cause of the pain. By avoiding tobacco products, eating a nutrient-rich diet, watching your stress and getting plenty of sleep every night, you can reduce your risk of experiencing sore gums. Your dental professional can also assist you in identifying risks you may not realise you carry, allowing you to participate in a treatment plan that specifically addresses your irritation.