Swollen gums is a health problem that should be taken seriously. When the condition persists over an extended period, it can lead to advanced gum problems and potential tooth loss. It can also be associated with a potential risk of heart attack and/or stroke. In light of the consequences, it is a good idea to be able to recognise the signs and to be familiar with the causes. Most importantly, knowing what to do to prevent tender gums can spare you and your family the suffering that comes with this oral care issue.
The South African Dental Association lists signs of swollen gums that indicate it is time to visit your dentist. These symptoms include swollen and tender gums, as well as gums that bleed when you brush, floss and eat crunchy or hard food. Other symptoms include mouth sores, bad breath and gum tissue that is not adherent to the teeth or that may be recessed and pulled away from the teeth.
Gum problems are most often caused by the development of plaque, which is a sticky film that continually forms on your teeth and at the gum line. Since plaque contains germs that release harmful toxins, it will irritate your gums if not removed. When left untreated, the inflamed gum tissue may become recessed and pocket formation may develop and continue to trap plaque below the gum line. This complication further irritates the tissue. If you don't take steps to stop this process, it will continue until it destroys bone and other tooth-supporting tissues.
The main cause of inflammation of the gums is plaque, but other factors may contribute to this issue or increase the likelihood of its development. Stress, poor nutrition, tobacco use, obesity and being over the age of 65 all increase your risk. If you have a disease that affects your body's inflammatory system, or if you clench and grind your teeth, you are at risk of developing a more severe case of inflamed gums.
The main thing you can do to avoid this condition is prevent the build-up of plaque by brushing your teeth thoroughly twice a day and flossing once a day before bedtime. You can also use an anti-germ mouthwash. Even if you regularly practice good oral care, some plaque may harden and form a rough deposit called tartar, which can only be removed by professional cleaning conducted by the dental hygienist at a dental or specialty practice. Regular visits to your dentist are important because he or she can check for signs of swollen gums and make recommendations to put you on the right track to a healthy mouth. In addition to keeping your teeth clean, avoid tobacco and follow a healthy diet.
Watching for signs of swollen gums will help you decide when to see a dentist to find out if further treatment is needed. Knowing the causes of the condition will assist you in avoiding or quitting habits that will make it worse. The good news is that, except in unusual cases, swollen gums can be prevented through good oral hygiene practices at home and by receiving professional cleanings every 6 months.