10 Signs of healthy gums

Signs of healthy gums

Gums are a critical part of your mouth as it covers and protects your teeth. Also, gum health is essential for the oral and general health of an individual. So, let’s look at the criteria and signs of healthy gums. 

What are gums?

Gums are soft tissues that surround the base of the teeth and the bony socket where teeth are housed. Gingiva is a scientific term used to refer gums. They are composed of dense fibrous connective tissue covered by an epithelium. 

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Why is gum health essential to you?

Gum health is critical to oral health because it serves several vital functions in the oral cavity. They have an elaborate network of gingival fibers that firmly hold teeth in place by attaching tooth roots to the surrounding bone. They also connect one tooth to another.

Also, gums acts as shock absorbers and distributes the pressures incurred during biting and chewing to the jawbone, protecting the teeth.

Moreover, they form a tight seal area around the teeth, preventing bacteria or foreign material from entering the tissues.

Lastly, gums contain pressure and pain-sensitive nerves, known as propioceptors and nociceptors, respectively. These nerve receptors allow you to sense pressure, and pain in the mouth.

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Signs of healthy gums 

The following are the signs of healthy gums:

Pink color

Signs of healthy gums

Healthy gums are usually described as coral pink in color. However, they vary among ethnicities and range from pale pink or bluish-purple.

Melanin pigment is responsible for the color of skin and gums. For instance, African and Asian descent have abundant melanin pigments with brown to blue-black gums, whereas Caucasians (fair-skinned individuals) have pale pink to coral gums. 

The pink color of the gums indicates the absence of inflammation. Inflammation is commonly a sign of an ongoing infection. 

The color of gums is mainly dependent upon four factors; 

  • The thickness of the epithelium – several layers of cells covering the connective tissue. It typically varies from 0.3-0.5mm in thickness.
  • The magnitude of pigmentation – for instance, African descent have highly pigmented gums, which gives their gums a dark brown color. 
  • Underlying blood vessels – in healthy gums, blood vessel under the epithelium gives gums a pink hue. However, during inflammation, budding of new blood vessels turn gums red that bleeds on brushing or minor injury. 
  • Degree of keratinization – it is the superficial layer of the gums, rich in keratin protein (85%), and provides mechanical strength and structural integrity to the gums. The keratin layer is less resilient than skin, but suitable for the oral environment.

Firm texture

The healthy gums should be firm to touch and not be swollen or puffy. In healthy gums, the epithelium is firmly attached to the teeth and connective tissue covering the bone and, therefore, gives a firm feel to touch. However, when gum inflammation occurs, the fluid influx causes the gums to swell and become puffy. 

Orange peel appearance of gums 

It is expected to have indentations – stippling – on the gums that give them a characteristic orange peel appearance. Stippling is considered a sign of gum health. 

No bleeding

Healthy gums should not bleed on brushing, flossing, or eating. Plaque deposits on the teeth irritate the gums and recruit cells of inflammation at the local site that cause bleeding on brushing, flossing, and sometimes eating. 

No sensitivity in teeth

Usually, you should not feel sensitivity in your teeth on exposure to air, cold or hot drinks, or food. Periodic sensitivity in otherwise healthy teeth could indicate gum recession. 

Tight fit around teeth 

Healthy gums snugly fit around the teeth, forming a protective barrier against bacteria and plaque. The gum margins follow the contours of cemento-enamel junction (a line joining the root and crown) and appear more translucent than rest of the gums.

Healthy Gum attachment

Healthy gums maintain their position along the teeth and do not recede or pull away, exposing the tooth roots. The gums are attached at the junction of the tooth crown and root (cemento-enamel junction) and protect the root from the harsh oral environment. If gum health is neglected, prolonged gum inflammation leads to receding gumline, exposing the tooth’s roots.

Shape of interdental papilla

The part of the gum tissue that fills in the triangular-shaped spaces between the teeth is the interdental papilla. Healthy interdental papilla should be pink and sharp, however, their shape corresponds to the size of the tooth. For instance, molars (back teeth) are wider than front teeth, and have wider interdental gum tissue.

No pocketing 

Pocketing is the depth of sulcus/furrow that is determined by the level of gum attachment to the tooth. You can’t measure pocketing at home, and it is measured at the dental office with a probe, a thin calibrated instrument. Ideally, the depth of the gum sulcus should be 1-2 mm. The gingival or gum sulcus is a space between the gum margins and teeth. 

A pocket depth deeper than 3 mm indicates that your gums have lost their attachment, have undergone recession and need treatment. 

No signs of infection or inflammation

Healthy gums shouldn’t exhibit signs of inflammation or infection such as redness, swelling, pain, pus, abscess (gum boil), or foul odor. 

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Risk factors that can affect your gum health

Several risk factors can hurt your gums, and controlling these factors may help you maintain your gum health. They include,

Signs of healthy gums

Bad oral hygiene

Inadequate brushing and flossing allow plaque accumulation on the teeth, and irritates the gums, leading to gingivitis and eventually periodontitis.

Smoking and vaping

Smoking and its tar products reduces blood flow to the gums, reduces their ability to fight infections, resulting in periodontitis. Also, the liquid you inhale from e-cigarettes contains heavy metals and cancer-causing substances that are injurious to your gum health.

Genetics

Your genetics play an important role in your health. According to American Academy of Periodontics, some individuals are more prone to getting gum disease due to their genetic makeup. For instance, people with thin gingival phenotype (thin gums) are more prone to gum recession. Also. Juvenile aggressive periodontitis, affecting teens and 20 year olds, is primarily caused by faulty genes.

Hormonal changes

Hormonal fluctuations during puberty, pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause can make gums more sensitive and prone to inflammation.

Uncontrolled diabetes

Periodic or consistent rise in blood sugar levels impair the function of white blood cell, making gums more susceptible to infections.

Medications

 Long-term use of certain medications, such as certain oral contraceptives, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and blood pressure lowering meds can cause dry mouth or other side effects that increase the risk of gum disease.

Poor nutrition

A diet high in sugar promotes the growth of bad bacteria in the mouth, leading to plaque buildup and gum disease. Also, deficiencies in essential nutrients such as calcium, vitamin C, and D can deteriorate gum health.

Stress

Chronic stress can weaken the immune system and increase inflammation throughout the body, including in gums.

Age

As you get older, the gum health deteriorates due to cumulative exposure to risk factors, poor habits and diet, and age-related decline in gum and bone health.

Common gum problems

Some common gum problems include:

Gingivitis

Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums, often caused by poor oral hygiene, leading to plaque and tartar buildup along the gum line. The symptoms include redness, swelling, and bleeding gums.

Periodontitis

Periodontitis is a more severe form of gum disease and involves loss of the supporting structures of the teeth. It can lead to tooth loss if left untreated. In periodontitis, the gums appear blue to purple, recede from their original attachment, the teeth appear longer than general and periodic pain in the gums.  

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Periodontal or gum Abscess

A gum abscess is a collection of pus within the gums, often caused by bad oral hygiene (bacterial overload) and spread of infection from the infected root canal. It is often accompanied by fever (body temperature greater than 100 degrees Celsius), pain, swelling, redness of the gums.

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Gum swelling

Gum swelling is the most common problems and occurs as a result of injury, inflammation, infection. It is often seen at puberty and during pregnancy due to hormonal changes. The swelling can can be localized (limited to one tooth) or generalized (involves the whole gums) depending upon the cause.

Canker sores

Canker sores are small blisters that can appear anywhere in the mouth and are frequently seen secondary to stress such as during exams. Injury, viral or fungal infections, autoimmune diseases are less common causes of canker sores.

How to keep your gums healthy?

Maintaining healthy gums is essential for overall health. Here are some tips to help keep your gums healthy:

Brush and flossing

Brush your teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Hard bristles can damage your teeth. Place the brush at 45 degrees on the gums and sweep it towards the biting surface. You can also use mild, circular strokes to clean the teeth and the gums.

Floss once a day before brushing to clean areas between the teeth. Cavities between the teeth often go undetected until its too late because of poor visibility.

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Use Mouthwash

You can also add an antimicrobial mouthwash to your oral hygiene regimen to help reduce the bacterial load that can cause gum disease. Select a mouthwash with American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance or ask your pharmacist or dentist.

Eat a Balanced Diet

A well-balanced diet is an integral part of gum health. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and dairy provides all the essential nutrients that your gums requires. Also, limit refined and processed foods in your diet because they lack fiber, and essential nutrients.

Quit Smoking 

Smokers often have bad teeth and poor gum health because of the deleterious long-term effects of tobacco on oral health. You will see dramatic improvement in your oral health after quitting smoking.

Limit Alcohol Consumption

Excessive alcohol consumption can damage your gums and increase the risk of gum disease. Moderation is the key, so try not to exceed more than two glasses of wine a day.

Annual Dentist visits

Annual or bi-annual dental check-ups and scaling and polishing are essential for healthy gums. Regular dental check-ups help identify the risk factors and early diagnosis of disease.

Manage Stress

Stress releases cortisol hormone from your adrenals. Chronic stress and a constant rise in cortisol lead to inflammation in different organs of the body, including the gums. Stress-reduction techniques such as high intensity workout, meditation, deep breathing can help reduce your cortisol levels.

when to see a dentist?

If you notice any signs of gum disease, such as redness, swelling, bleeding, or bad breath for more than a week, consult your dentist.

conclusion

The following are the signs of healthy gums:

  • Pink color of gums
  • No bleeding on brushing and flossing
  • firm texture
  • Tight fit around teeth
  • No pocketing
  • No signs of infection or inflammation

Balanced diet, practicing good oral hygiene, regular dental check-ups, and seeking timely professional help can help you maintain your gum health.

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