When it comes to oral health, most people think about their teeth a whole lot more than they think about their gums. That's a real shame since your gums can indicate several underlying health issues, and you can check them quite easily.
Here are just four ways you can check your gums every couple of days to stay ahead of any potential health concerns and get them seen to as quickly as possible if any oddities are noted.
1. Feel for Rough Spots
We generally feel some parts of our gums with our tongues each day, merely from talking or eating. However, you can't feel all along the gums with only your tongue, so use a finger instead. Make sure you clean your hands, and then start to softly and slowly run your finger along the gum line. As you go, make sure you watch out for any rougher spots.
A rough spot along the gums can have several causes. You might have an ill-fitting crown or a chipping tooth that is causing irritation. Stress can also cause rough patches. However, many causes of rough spots can be far more serious. Growths, whether benign or cancerous, can develop in the mouth, and oral cancers are obviously very serious. They're also relatively common, with a life-time risk of around 1 in 90 for men and 1 in 200 for women. Catching oral cancer early is crucial, and feeling a rough spot along the gums can be your first clue that something is amiss.
2. Feel for Swelling
Rough patches aren't the only thing that you need to check for while you're feeling your gums. You should also take note of any swelling. It can be a little hard to notice any swelling along the gums since the teeth beneath will naturally cause ridges and valleys along the surface. However, any abnormal swelling will usually betray itself by feeling slightly spongy, and it may hurt to press down.
If you notice swelling, it's likely to be caused by an abscess. These form when food debris is trapped beneath the gums, and you really need to see a dentist quickly since that infection can spread to other parts of the body.
3. Press Down and Check for Bleeding
Once you're all done feeling your gums for roughness or swelling, try gently pushing down where the gums rise between each tooth. You might have noticed your dentist doing this whenever you go for a check-up; what they are doing is checking for bleeding.
If your gums bleed when put under pressure, something is wrong. In rare cases, bleeding gums can be caused by a vitamin deficiency, but it's far more likely for gum disease to be the culprit. That might sound serious, and it can be, but bleeding gums are one of the very earliest signs of gum disease; if you haven't noticed any other symptoms and only find that the gums bleed a little when you press down on them, it's likely that your dentist will be able to help you work against the problem without any invasive surgery, such as a root canal.
4. Look for Colour Change
Finally, try checking for colour change. This can be quite hard to spot, but you can check more of your mouth my opening wide and pulling your lips away from your teeth. Prop up your smartphone and turn on the torch to flood your mouth with light.
Ideally, your gums should be firm and pink. However, the gums may darken if you have gingivitis, thanks to a build-up of bacteria below them. Alternatively, you could find that your gums look bright red with small white patches, which could indicate a fungal or viral infection. Random spots of discoloration are especially worthy of attention; dark spots may be caused by melanoma.
For more information and help identifying issues with your gums, talk with a dentist in your area.