Do you spit blood when cleaning your teeth?
The most common reason for this is inflammation of the gum; which could be a sign of gum disease.
Gum disease can be categorised in two different stages:
- Gingivitis – early gum disease that is reversible through improved oral hygiene techniques at home
- Periodontitis – an irreversible condition that happens if gingivitis progresses.
The symptoms of gingivitis
The signs of gingivitis include a red, swollen appearance to the gums which can bleed easily. People most commonly notice that their gums are bleeding when they brush them. Bad breath (halitosis) can also be related to the disease.
The reason for this change in the gums is due to the body trying to respond to bacteria in plaque and fight it off, the same way it would if any other bacteria was to try and affect the body. Plaque is a normal part of everyone’s life, but it is how you manage it that is most important.
One way to effectively manage and reduce your level of plaque is by cleaning your teeth properly.
Using a manual toothbrush and an electric toothbrush require slightly different technique. Whichever you are using, if you do it thoroughly you can ensure adequate daily removal of plaque and help to prevent dental disease (not just gum disease).
Below are some ways you can make sure you are cleaning your teeth properly:
- Brush twice a day, once before bed and at another time (normally first thing in the morning)
- Aim along the gum line, i.e. where the tooth and gum meet
- Massage the gum line gently in small circles
- Concentrate on one tooth at a time – it’s a TOOTH brush, not a TEETH brush
- Try and use a timer to make sure you are using a full two minutes – try splitting the mouth into quarters and spend 30 seconds in each, cleaning all the surfaces thoroughly.
Using something in between the teeth is also key to help stop bleeding gums. Brushing alone cleans around 60% of surfaces, which means that even with excellent toothbrush technique, we’re still missing 40%!
Speak to a dental professional
It is important to note that although you may notice the bleeding gums, gingivitis and periodontitis are generally painless until it becomes too late. So regular dental visits are very important for identifying potential problems.
Talking to a dentist, dental hygienist, dental therapist or qualified oral health practitioner, can be beneficial as they can identify areas which you may be able to improve at home.
This can be something as simple as modifying toothbrush technique, as per the above tips, and identifying appropriate tools for use in between the teeth such as floss or interdental aids.
It can be difficult to identify which would be best for the spaces between your teeth and it can be daunting if you haven’t been shown how to do it properly. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to show you at your next dental check-up.
Not only are we aiming to tackle any signs of gum disease, but this can also reduce decay starting between the teeth where food regularly becomes trapped.
When gingivitis turns into periodontitis
Periodontitis is an irreversible disease of the gums including the structures surrounding the teeth below the gums. If the plaque bacteria are left undisturbed around the teeth and gums then they begin to cause further damage.
This damage includes loss of bone around the teeth, resulting in what we call pockets, where bacteria can be even more protected from our efforts to remove them. Long term, this increased bone loss can result in mobile teeth and eventually tooth loss. According to the World Health Organisation, “Severe periodontal disease, which may result in tooth loss, was the 11th most prevalent disease globally in 2016”.
Once the bone has been lost, it will not grow back. However, you can make changes to try and stabilise the disease and prevent further progression. At this stage you would benefit from the involvement of a dental professional who may be able to offer treatment options alongside giving you advice on home care.