Tags Posts tagged with "Gums"

Gums

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Gums Bleeding When Flossing
©Kurhan/Shutterstock.com

If you got up from the computer right now and went over to the sink to wash your hands, would you expect them to bleed as  you wash them?

Your Hands Don't Bleed When You Wash ThemIf your hands did start bleeding all over while you were washing them, you’d probably be quite worried.  However, many people simply think it’s alright to get bleeding gums while they brush and floss.

The title of this post asks the question, Is it normal to get bleeding gums when brushing and flossing? The fact of the matter is that while it may be normal (as in it happens to a lot of people) to get bleeding gums, it’s certainly not healthy to get bleeding gums when brushing and flossing.

Why People’s Gums Bleed During Brushing and Flossing

The most common reason that people get bleeding gums when brushing and flossing is because they have plaque that has gotten down between their gums and their teeth that irritates their gums.

To visualize the area between the gums and teeth where this plaque accumulates, read about The Anatomy of a Tooth.  To find out more about what plaque is, read What Every Human Needs to Know About Plaque.

As the bacteria start accumulating between your teeth and your gums, it irritates the gums and causes the gums to become red and inflamed to try to fight off the bacteria.

The textbook Carranza’s Clinical Periodontology states that “The presence of plaque for only two days can initiate gingival bleeding.” That means that if you neglect brushing or flossing for just two days, it could cause your gums to start bleeding when you begin brushing and flossing.

It is important to note that there are some other reasons that you can get bleeding gums, such as brushing too hard, taking certain medications, or certain systemic conditions.  I’ll talk about those in a future post.  For this article, I am focusing on plaque accumulation, since it is the main reason that patients get bleeding gums.

Bleeding Gums Treatment: How to Make antibiotics Your Gums Stop Bleeding

The only way to get your gums to return to health is to remove the source of the irritation, which is the plaque.  You can do this by brushing and flossing.

Unfortunately, many people stop brushing or flossing when they notice that their gums are bleeding because they assume that they are hurting their gums.  While brushing and flossing too rigorously can hurt your gums, chances are that there is bacteria down between your gums and your teeth that needs to be removed.  Not flossing because your gums bleed will only make the problem worse and could lead you down the path to periodontal disease.

Once you start improving your oral hygiene, your gums should stop bleeding.  The textbook Carranza’s Clinical Periodontology also says, “It may take seven days or more after continued plaque control and treatment to eliminate gingival bleeding.”  That means that your gums should return to health after about a week or so of practicing a good brushing and flossing routine.

If your gums constantly bleed when you brush and floss and it doesn’t go away after a week or so of good oral hygiene, it could be a sign of something more serious and you should ask your doctor or dentist about it.

Conclusion

It is not healthy to have bleeding gums when brushing and flossing.  By brushing and flossing, you can remove the plaque that accumulates between your gums and your teeth, and cause your gums to return to their healthy, pink, non-bleeding state.  It’s a good idea to consult your dentist/dental hygienist to see if you are in need of a deeper gum cleaning (scaling and root planing) to help remove the plaque that has accumulated underneath your gum-line.

Do you have any questions, comments, or concerns about bleeding gums?  I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to answer any questions that you may have.  Thanks for reading!

15
Dental Tartar and Calculus
©Lighthunter/Shutterstock.com

Earlier this week, one of my friends told me a joke that made me groan. She asked, “What is a dentist’s favorite subject in high school?”  I told her I didn’t know, and then she blurted out “Calculus!”

Sorry.

So what exactly is calculus?  Calculus, commonly known as tartar (as in tartar-control toothpaste) is plaque that has hardened.  In the picture below, the calculus looks like a thick, creamy coating sticking to the teeth between the teeth and the gums.

Tartar / Calculus

Here’s two other photos of the same mouth shown in the photo at the top of this article.  Before a dental cleaning:

Dental Tartar and Calculus Before Cleaning
©Lighthunter/Shutterstock.com

And the same set of teeth after a good scraping by the hygienist:

Dental Tartar and Calculus After Dental Cleaning
©Lighthunter/Shutterstock.com

What Is Tartar / Calculus?

Tartar and calculus are the same thing.  Tartar is the more common term and most dentists and dental hygienists will call it calculus.  No matter what you call it, tartar is simply plaque that has sat on your teeth for a while and hardened.

A while back, I talked about how saliva helps our teeth by repairing teeth with calcium to undo the damage done by eating sugar.  Unfortunately, that same calcium can get incorporated into plaque, turning it into hard tartar.

The book Carranza’s Clinical Periodontology describes calculus by saying, “It is usually white or whitish yellow in color, hard with claylike consistency, and easily detached from the tooth surface.  After removal, it may rapidly recur, especially in the lingual area of the mandibular incisors.  The color is influenced by contact with such substances as tobacco and food pigments.”

Where Is Tartar Usually Found?

Tartar can be found on any tooth surface and even below the gumline.  A common hideout is on the tongue side of your lower front teeth.  The salivary glands under your tongue put out a lot of calcium, which helps the plaque harden into tartar rather quickly.

How Can You Prevent Calculus and Tartar from Forming In Your Mouth?

The best way to prevent calculus from forming is by brushing twice a day and flossing.  The book Carranza’s Clinical Periodontology says that plaque can start to mineralize (the process that helps it turn into tartar) in as little as a couple of hours!

How Is Calculus Removed from Teeth?

Once plaque has hardened into calclulus, you need to have it removed by a dental professional.  Your dentist or dental hygienist removes calculus using metal instruments or with an ultrasonic dental instrument.

It’s important to visit your dentist regularly so you can get any calculus or tartar build-up removed.

What Happens If You Never Get Calculus Removed From Your Teeth?

If you don’t go to the dentist to get calculus removed from your teeth it can start to irritate your gums and over time may cause periodontal disease, a major cause of tooth loss.  If you look again at the picture above, you can see that the patient’s gums appear to be falling down, because they are irritated from all of the tartar.

Chances are that if you have calculus visible on your teeth then there is also some below the gumline.  It’s important to see your dentist so that you can keep your teeth clean and free of periodontal disease.

Conclusion

In summary, bacteria cling to your teeth and grow, forming plaque.  If you don’t remove the plaque by brushing and flossing, it can get hard and turn into mineralized plaque known as tartar or calculus.

If you don’t get it cleaned off, tartar can irritate your gums, contributing to periodontal disease.

If you have any questions, comments, or good jokes to share about tartar or calculus, feel free to leave them below in the comments section.  Thanks for reading!

14
Gum Disease Leads to Tooth Loss
©Kninwong/Shutterstock.com

Man Asking About Tooth LossIf someone asked you what the #1 cause of tooth loss is in people over age 35, what would you guess?

If you’re like most people, you would probably guess that it’s cavities.

Unfortunately…you’d be wrong.

It is generally accepted that the leading cause of tooth loss in people over 35 is periodontitis, more commonly known as gum disease.  In people under 35, cavities are the leading cause of tooth loss.

Teeth are normally held firmly in place under your gums by a strong bone called alveolar bone.

Gum Disease Can Cause You To Lose Your Teeth
©Jun Kawaguchi/Shutterstock.com

You Can Lose Teeth That Are In Perfect Condition

If you’ve brushed your teeth every day of your life and kept them in perfect condition with no cavities, but you’ve never flossed then you might be in trouble.  There are many people who believe that brushing is enough.  But while they are preventing cavities, their lack of flossing is causing other unseen effects on their gums.

Over the years, a lack of flossing will take its toll on your gum health.  Your gums will recede due to the constant irritation they’ve had from bacteria that hasn’t been removed by flossing.  Soon enough, your teeth begin to loosen and can even fall out if your gums are not cared for.

The x-ray below shows two teeth that have lost nearly half of the support from their bony foundation.

Periodontal Disease Associated Bone Loss
The blue lines show the level where the bone should be to provide adequate support to the teeth. The red line shows the current level of the bone. Click on the image for a larger view.

Your Gums Are the Foundation

House FoundationIn a healthy mouth, each tooth in your mouth is firmly gripped by strong, healthy alveolar bone.  Hopefully the building you’re in right now is rooted firmly in the ground by a strong foundation.

Try to imagine a beautiful home anchored firmly on top of a large hill by a strong foundation.  Let’s compare this house to a tooth.

As gingivitis progresses to periodontitis (gum disease), the bone that holds your teeth in place gradually erodes away.  This is similar to hundreds of rainstorms gradually washing away the dirt that surrounds the foundation of a house.

If enough dirt washes away, the house could eventually find itself on unstable ground and fall over.  Even if everything else on the house was in perfect condition, it could still fall.

This is the same in the mouth.  Even if you have a tooth that has never had a cavity, it can fall out due to a lack of support from the alveolar bone.

Conclusion

You now know that gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in people over age 35.

One of the best ways to prevent gum disease is to floss daily.  Flossing helps dislodge the bacteria that get stuck down between your teeth and gums.  Ordinary brushing can’t remove these bacteria, only flossing can get rid of them.

Do you have any questions or comments about gum disease?  Leave them in the comments below and I’ll get back to you.

6
Anatomy of a Tooth
©Kninwong/Shutterstock.com

Have you ever wondered what makes a tooth so strong?

Anatomy of a ToothThe anatomy of a tooth is very simple compared to the human body.  Every tooth in your mouth has two major portions: a crown and a root.

The crown of the tooth is normally the portion that you can see inside your mouth.  It is covered in a glassy, white-colored substance called enamel, which is the hardest substance in the body.

The root is the part of the tooth that you can’t see unless you have severe gum disease.  It is what anchors the tooth in the mouth and supports all of the forces that are placed on the tooth while food is being chewed.  The root is covered by a very thin layer of a substance called cementum.  The cementum anchors the tooth to the bone by way of the periodontal ligament.

Here is a large diagram that illustrates the anatomy of a tooth:

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Swollen Gums
©Botazsolti/Shutterstock.com

Throughout your life, you may notice that your gums may sometimes get bigger from time to time.  There are many different reasons that your gums may be enlarged.

While it is widely known that if you don’t brush your teeth and floss regularly, you can develop gingivitis, which is an inflammation of the gums.  However, there are also many other reasons your gums may be getting bigger.

I mention seven of the more common reasons below, and then in the final paragraph I mention a few more less common causes of gingival (gum) enlargement.

Seven Reasons Your Gums May be Getting Bigger

Gums1 – You Have Gingivitis – Gingivitis is when the gums are overwhelmed by the amount of plaque on the teeth that they become red and puffy to try to fight the bacteria.  Without proper brushing, gingivitis won’t go away.  If you have red and puffy gums, you might want to see your dentist.  Your dentist will be able to prescribe an antibacterial mouthwash that can help reduce the swelling and get your gums back to their healthy coral pink color.

2 – Drugs are Causing Your Gums to Get Bigger – There are several drugs that can cause your gums to get bigger.  This condition is known as drug-induced gingival hyperplasia and can cause your gums to look like they are squeezing out of the spaces between your teeth and growing over your teeth.  There are a few categories of drugs that can cause this:

  • Anticonvulsants.  For example primidone, phenytoin, phenobarbital, topiramate, ethosuximide, valproate, lamotrigine, and vigabatrin.
  • Calcium Channel Blockers.  For example nifedipine and verapamil.
  • Immunosuppresants such as cyclosporine

3 – You Breathe Through Your Mouth A Lot – If find yourself breathing through your mouth very often, you can be irritating your gums.  If you have a stuffed up nose and can only breathe through your mouth, you may notice your gums getting slightly bigger.  It is presumed that since the air you breathe in is drying your gums, they compensate by enlarging the blood supply and getting puffier to ensure that they don’t dry out.

4 – Hormones can make your gums bigger.  Adolescents that are going through puberty are extremely susceptible to gingivitis.  Also, pregnant women are very susceptible to gingivitis due to the high levels of progesterone in their bodies.  Progesterone increases the permeability of the blood vessels in the gums.  Women taking birth control may also notice enlarged gums.

5 – Stress -If you are stressed out a lot, try to reduce it somehow.  If you need some help, here’s a resource to help you reduce stress.

6 – Vitamin C Deficiency – If you aren’t getting enough vitamin C in your diet, your gums can get really puffy and red.  I have seen this, and it’s not very pretty.  You can get vitamin C from most fruits, especially citrus fruits or from a multi-vitamin.

7 – Diseases can cause enlarged gums.  Certain diseases such as diabetes mellitus, leukemia, cancer, sarcoidosis, Wegener’s granulomatosis, and autoimmune diseases can all cause your gums to get bigger.

Conclusion

There are of course other reasons that can cause your gums to get bigger, but they aren’t too common.  For example, if a dentist puts a crown on a tooth and the crown has to go below the gum line, that can cause your gums to get irritated and big.  Heavy metal poisoning, immune disorders, substance abuse, and Down Syndrome are some other causes of bigger gums.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment.  Thanks for reading!

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Oil Pulling for Teeth
©Sebastian Duda/Shutterstock.com

Oil pulling therapy is an ancient medicinal technique that is used to improve oral health.

Oil Pulling therapy involves putting a tablespoon of vegetable oil (usually sunflower or sesame seed oil) into your mouth and swishing it around like mouthwash for an extended period of time.  It is recommended to do this on an empty stomach at the beginning of the day.  After you’ve rinsed the oil through every little crevice in your mouth which takes about 10-20 minutes you spit the oil out.  According to the remedy, the oil is supposed to remove the toxic bacteria in your mouth.  You can find more information on oil pulling from this website.

Vegetable Oil Used for Oil PullingOil pulling therapy has been used for many years as an Indian natural remedy to prevent teeth decay, bleeding gums, bad breath, dry mouth, dry throat, and chapped lips.  It was also used because it was believed to strengthen the teeth, gums, and jaws.  This remedy had been passed on and used because the Indians believed it worked, not because of scientific evidence.

However, in the last decade there have been some studies published that address the issue of whether or not oil pulling is effective.  I found the results rather surprising.  Here’s an easy-to-read summary of the four studies that I was able to find that discussed oil pulling and oral health.

Study #1: 20 Adolescent Boys

This study aimed to find out if oil pulling could reduce the amount of streptococcus mutans (one of the major bad bacteria in plaque) in people’s saliva.

They took 20 boys and divided them into two groups.  One group rinsed their mouths with chlorhexidine (a prescription antiseptic mouthwash marketed under the name of Peridex in the U.S.) and the other group rinsed their mouth with sesame oil for 10 minutes every morning.

The researchers collected plaque and saliva samples from both groups four times during the study.  Both groups showed a significant decrease in the levels of bacteria in their mouth.  Using either oil or chlorhexidine along with brushing was much better than brushing alone.  Here’s what the researchers had to say:

In this study the chlorhexidine group showed a greater statistically significant reduction of S. mutans count in plaque and saliva at different time periods than the oil pulling group. However, sesame oil has certain advantages over chlorhexidine: it does not stain, it has no lingering aftertaste, and causes no allergy. Sesame oil is 5-6 times more cost-effective than chlorhexidine and is, moreover, readily available in the household. There are no disadvantages in oil pulling therapy except for the extended duration of the procedure compared with chlorhexidine. Though oil pulling therapy cannot be recommended for use as a treatment adjunct as of now, it can be used as a preventive home therapy to maintain oral hygiene.

Study #2:  10 People Do Oil Pulling

This study had two objectives: to find out if oil pulling could reduce plaque & gingivitis and to find out if oil pulling was safe for the mouth.

10 people performed oil pulling in addition to their normal oral hygiene routine.  They used refined sunflower oil.  The researchers measured their plaque and gingival scores periodically throughout the 45-day duration of the study.

This study found that oil pulling did significantly reduce plaque and gingivitis.  In the words of the researchers:

In a study by Tritton CB and Armitage GC(3) tooth brushing has reduced plaque scores by  11-27% and gingivitis by 8-23%. By oil pulling, in the present study plaque scores have reduced by 18-30% and gingivitis has reduced by 52-60%. Hence reduction in plaque is comparable to previous studies, whereas reduction in gingivitis has been far superior. Being an indigenous procedure of Ayurveda this has a wide scope if properly utilized.

I don’t think this study is as accurate as the first one because there was no control group.  They just took 10 people and started the study.  Those 10 people probably started taking much better care of their teeth since they knew that researchers would be measuring plaque and gum inflammation.  That fact alone could have biased the study.

Study #3: 10 Other People Do Oil Pulling

This study simply had 10 people do oil pulling using sesame oil for a period of 40 days.  Their oral bacteria was measured before and after.  The bacteria in the subjects’ mouths decreased an average of 20%.

Study #4: 20 Adolescent Boys with Gingivitis

This study took 20 boys with Gingivitis and had one group use oil pulling with sesame oil and the other group use chlorhexidine, much like the first study I mentioned.

Once again, both groups showed an increase in oral health following through with their regimens.  The researchers concluded that:

1. A statistically significant reduction in the plaque index score was seen in both the oil pulling and chlorhexidine groups.
2. A statistically significant reduction in the modified gingival index score was seen in both the oil pulling and chlorhexidine groups.
3. A considerable reduction in the total colony count of the microorganisms was seen in the plaque sample in both groups. Though the reduction was more in the oil pulling group, there was no statistically significant difference between the groups.

Possible Harmful Effects of Oil Pulling

Although studies have indicated that oil pulling is wonderful, there still hasn’t been enough scientific studies to prove that it should be prescribed.

Last December, in a letter to the editor of the British Dental Journal, a dentist reported that he was treating a patient with gingitis and bleeding gums.  This patient had been practicing oil pulling for a few months and noticed that her condition had worsened.  Upon stopping oil pulling for three weeks, the dentist noticed that her gingivitis was reduced.  The patient was subsequently treated using traditional methods and her gums returned to health.

This dentist believed that she was retaining oil particles in her gum tissues and that this was causing her gingivitis.

It is important to keep in mind that none of the studies reported any harmful effects, and it is quite possible that this woman’s gingivitis was due to something other than the oil pulling and it was just a coincidence that her gingivitis subsided when she quit practicing oil pulling.

Conclusion

It is still too early to tell scientifically if oil pulling should be used.  In developing countries, such as India, it may be a great option since it is cheap and readily available.

Oil pulling has been around for many years as a folk remedy and seems to have withstood the test of time.  The four studies that have been done have also shown its effectiveness.

So, if you’re looking for a cheap way to keep your mouth healthy, you might want to try oil pulling.  If you do, let us know how it goes in the comments.