I'm always concerned with how my teeth look when I should be paying more attention to my gums for insight into my general dental health.
If your gums are swelling, bleeding, discolored (think: red, blue, or dark red instead of pink), receding, or have changed from a firm to spongy texture - these are all signs (along with bad breath!) that you could be experiencing gingivitis, Dr. Ishwarpreet Singh, DDS, a general dentist with ProHealth Dental, said.
According to ProHealth Dental, gingivitis - a gum disease caused by inflammation and bacteria - can slowly destroy the gums and surrounding tissue supporting the teeth, which can impact your oral and overall health.
Causes of gingivitis include plaque or tartar build-up often due to poor oral hygiene, some medications, hormonal changes, diabetes, smoking, bleeding disorders, cancers, malnutrition, viral or fungal infections, and genetics, Dr. Singh said.
To prevent gingivitis altogether, she explained that maintaining proper at-home oral care recommended by your dentist is key, along with attending professional teeth cleanings every six months and avoiding risk factors like smoking or eating lots of sugar.
"At-home control or prevention of gingivitis begins with brushing at least twice a day, flossing at least once a day, and using mouth rinses to wash out plaque between teeth in addition to flossing. Soft toothbrushes should be used and replaced every 3-4 months."
Based on your condition's severity, your dentist could recommend more frequent deep cleanings or a consultation with a gum specialist, Dr. Singh said.
And if left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, a more severe disease that can eventually lead to tooth movement, tooth loss, or more general health issues, she added.