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Sore, swollen and bleeding gums

Gum problems are as big a risk to a person's oral health as tooth decay, and problems with the gums can lead to a loss of teeth.

Swollen and bleeding gums can be symptoms of gum disease.

Gum problems can also be caused by using the wrong techniques with toothbrushes and floss.

Incorrect brushing technique

In your quest to keep your teeth clean, you might be tempted to brush your teeth as vigorously as you can. Your gums are made of sensitive tissue, though, so brushing the wrong way could damage them.

Whether you opt for a manual or electric toothbrush, choose one with soft nylon bristles that have blunted ends. Even though you can find brushes with medium or hard bristles, they may damage the enamel on your teeth or cause red and swollen gums.

When you brush, make sure you use gentle, circular motions to massage and clean the teeth and gums. While many people use a back-and-forth motion, this motion can actually irritate and damage your gums, making them sore and more likely to bleed or recede.

Incorrect flossing technique

We all know the importance of flossing every day to help remove plaque from places where your toothbrush cannot reach. To make sure that your healthy habit isn't causing swollen or bleeding gums, be gentle when you floss. Rather than forcing the floss between your teeth, carefully slide it up and down, following the curve of each tooth.

Gum disease

According to the British Dental Health Foundation, it is believed that most people suffer from a form of gum disease called gingivitis, and that gum disease is the major cause of tooth loss in adults in the UK. It is a disease that progresses slowly and with correct treatment and maintaining good oral health, it can be slowed down to a rate that means that you should be able to keep from losing your teeth, most of your life. If the disease progresses to periodontitis, a much more serious form of gum disease, then tooth loss is a possible consequence.

When people do not practise correct dental hygiene, bacteria in the mouth form plaque on the teeth. These bacteria may cause your gums to become inflamed, which results in red, swollen or bleeding gums. For many people with gingivitis, this inflammation is not painful. If you detect gingivitis early, it can be reversed and healed with correct oral hygiene. But left untreated, gingivitis can worsen and ultimately lead to tooth loss. Be sure to seek advice if you have the following symptoms, even if you are not experiencing any discomfort:

  • Changes in the way teeth fit together on biting, or in the fit of partial dentures
  • Formation of deep pockets between teeth and gums
  • Gums that bleed during and after tooth brushing
  • Loose or shifting teeth
  • Persistent bad breath or bad taste in the mouth
  • Receding gums
  • Red, swollen, or tender gums

When gingivitis progresses it develops into periodontitis, a condition in which the gums and bones that hold the teeth in place can be severely compromised. The bacteria on the teeth release toxic substances that damage the gums and cause them to become infected. The infection and the inflammation that result when your body attacks the bacteria can degrade your gums and the bones in your jaw. You may experience exceptionally swollen, painful gums that are likely to bleed. If not treated, periodontitis can lead to tooth loss.

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