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helena's avatar

How do I know if my gums are healthy?

Asked by helena (239 points ) August 8th, 2007

My teeth are beautiful. But I think my gums are getting loose. When I floss, there is so much space now. Can your gums shrink away from your teeth? Can I plump them up? (They look fine, but I feel a difference).

I know I am bad, but I really do not want to see a dentist. Just thinking about it, my heart is beating faster...

I appreciate your advice.

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17 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Gums shrink w. aging, I am sorry to say, and expose the more tender stuff below enamel (dentine?) Flossing is important, but please don't tell me that you have not been to a dentist in a while. I go four xs/year for prevention since the bad stuff (cavities, root canal, periodontal work is a zillion times more painful than maintenance). Never mind the cost!!! Check w. friends about a dentist who will talk to you first about anxiety and painless work. Any reputable dentist will do that.Take music that calms you...breathe a lot. The worst that can happen is a brief prick of novocaine...like getting a tetanus shot or a bee sting. The dentist will put a topical anesthesia on spot before jabbing you; then it is la la land. Also some dentists use nitrous oxide....la la la la land. You are not bad, just tempting fate. How old are you? Why isn't someone nagging you :-) (besides me?)

zina's avatar

yes, i have receding gums - they don't feel 'loose', but have moved farther up/down. this can be caused by braces (even earlier in life), brushing too hard (or maybe flossing too hard??), infections, it can run in a family, and there might be other causes too. in extreme cases you can get a gum graph (a small surgery where tissue from somewhere else - i think the roof of the mouth? - is placed where the gum was).

i second going to a dentist. you can find nice ones. the main concern to me would be a cavity between where your tooth enamel ends and the gum now begins. this started to happen to me but my dentist caught it and did a kind of preventive filling thing. basically your root can be exposed in a very painful way (trust me) and you can get in an ugly mess. you're better off going now and getting it checked out.

helena's avatar

Dear gailcalled and zina, thank you for your thoughts. I was hoping for a magic gum balm or some mystery vitamins that would fluff up the gums. Do you know of anything? Have you heard anything about tea tree oil?

I like the idea of dentists because they are the only real practitioners of preventive medicine. Maybe I had some early life trauma with a dentist. I am fearless about most things, but I stopped going to the dentist about 15 years ago, when I was first in highschool. My mother was never happy about it, but she had to give up because it was so stressful for me. My teeth are really fine. I never have any problems.

gailcalled's avatar

No matter how gorgeous and fine your teeth are, w/o gums to hold them, you will be TOOTHLESS. All gums recede eventually - it's called aging. If you don't like my advice, listen to Zina! NO magic balms or flufferuppers, sorry to say. Dental hygenists use a painless ultrasound to stimulate gums and to clean any pockets under them that accumulate. If you wait too long, sensitive tissue will be exposed and then it won't be so painless (trust me too).

joli's avatar

I've heard talk about the tea tree oil but never saw any result from using it. The space you are describing is peridontitus, beginning gum disease. There is probably plaque on your teeth from not getting regular Dental cleanings and the plaque irritates the gum tissue so it pulls away from the tooth. This is different than recession which is a normal part of aging. You must go find a Dentist and get your teeth cleaned. The puffy pocket gums is the beginning, the next stage will be bleeding and inflammation, the third stage will be bone loss and loose teeth. Even if you floss and brush regularly you can have problems without a thorough teeth cleaning every year at least. Floss everyday and use Listerine starting right now so your gums will be better off during that first cleaning which may be uncomfortable. Bone loss is as normal as recession but you never want to speed these things up with neglect.

gailcalled's avatar

Joli sounds as though she knows what she is talking about. My grandparents all had false teeth; my generation had cavities; my kids have almost perfect teeth due to fluoride in the water AND regular maintenance. I nagged about very few things but going to the dentist was one thing I badgered them about when they were adults.

helena's avatar

Oh my goodness, I am such a disaster! I want to take back my question... how do I do that? Andrew...?

Really, thank you everyone for telling me that my mouth is worse than global warming. I should ask a friend if she will 1) find me a dentist and 2) drive me there after I have downed an entire bottle of champagne...

MrBlueEyes's avatar

Thank you all for your kind suggestions regarding Helena's teeth. However, you should take not that your responses have caused a veritable melt-down of her self-confidence. It is hard to talk about something like gums on a sight like this, what without any visuals. So let me try and paint the picture for you a little better.

In truth, Helena's teeth could launch a thousand ships. They have. All of them filled to the brim with fluoride and dental floss. She is a big flosser, in truth. She is silent about this, but we are all so often silent about our secret prides. And this is it--for Helena, her teeth are her secret pride. We all suspect ourselves of one of life's cardinal virtues--for Helena, it is her smile.

So when she asked about her gums, it was an effort by a woman desperately afraid of losing the thing she imagines to be her very image in the world. So let me represent her teeth to you. No, their not all /\/\/\/\/\ peeping from those gums. Think more two perfect hyperbolic curves of gleeming whiteness. Taj Mahal whiteness. Gleeming in the noonday sun.

I believe the "looseness" she speaks of is not really so much a physical matter as a curious belief that her life is spinning out of control. One tooth at a time.

But as for now, Helena's teeth gleem still. They are extraordinary, and you would all be lucky to see them. Gums and all.

helena's avatar

MrBlueEyes, I know who you are. You make me laugh!

zina's avatar

hi there - just to mention that you are not alone. i, too, asked my dentist what magic potion i could use to stop this madness. i knew there was a cure - and one OUT of the dentist's office. something to encourage re-growth? plumping? happy, healthy, rosey gum medicine? a food? a moisturizer? my dentist told me NO. but who knows? he could be wrong. i'm open to it. if you find a solution, TELL ME!!!

tea tree oil, to my knowledge, is a fantastic anti-bacterial/anti-microbial/antiseptic/anti-fungal amazingness - useful in many circumstances. i use it occasionally on the skin, stopping infections or helping to dry things up. *it is VERY drying*, and really can shrink things (like bug bites, scrapes, pimples). it's VERY powerful, and i know you can't put it in eyes or ingest it (although i have used toothpastes and mouthwashes which have it) - obviously i ignore the instructions not to put it un-diluted on skin. i don't know how it would effect gums, but my intuition is that it's not quite what you're looking for.

helena's avatar

Zina, I like you! I promise, if I cannot handle the bottle of champagne and my gum cleaning, I will find another answer and share it with you. I am thinking about gulping down large quantities of ocean water. It heals all of my scrapes and cuts, so why not my gums, too?

gailcalled's avatar

If MrBlueEyes has a clone, plz FedEx COD to pob 73, Spencertown, NY. Seriously, checking in w. dental hygenist 2x yearly isn't such a big deal. Nice that Helena's gleaming teeth can "launch a thousand ships." Let's keep them that way.

Will tea tree oil treat my dozens of bites caused, I think, by no-see-ums that I didn't see yesterday. My breasts and stomach are peppered w. itchy little red dots

helena's avatar

Oh my goodness, that sounds uncomfortable! I don't want to tell you this, gailcalled, but I don't think tea tree oil is your answer, unless you think the bites are getting infected. Maybe you could try hydrocortizone. Or a comfrey compress...?

gailcalled's avatar

Triple antibiotic cream is working, plus no weeding or roaming in woods. That seems to stir up the midges, etc.in the grass. I was just outside w. two guys. I was bitten; they weren't. Maybe it is the lavender, etc oils in my shampoo and conditioner?

helena's avatar

Hi gailcalled, I don't know if lavendar is a bug attractor. Do you usually attract a lot of bugs? ;) (Maybe your smell is a magnet for these guys) Someone mentioned in another post using a product called, Skin So Soft by Avon. I have never used it, but if you have to mess with these critters lots, maybe you could try it. If it's not the lavender and you don't typically attract bugs, maybe the fragrance of something you ate permeated your skin.

peggylou's avatar

What a MOST interesting question has generated so much interest and feelings! I love it!

joli's avatar

Oh my goodness! I didn't mean to scare just to inform and get you to the Dentist! Back to the tea tree oil, I believe it will help keep gums healthy just as flossing and brushing do but it won't *CURE* gum disease already in progress. Get your teeth cleaned, take some advil prior with your champagne, and afterward use the tea tree oil to keep them "shrunk". Your dentist can also give you a rinse called peridex. I use it during times of stress when gums seems to get worse. When you're stressed your body uses up nutrients quickly, another thing healthy gums need, lots of B and C vitamins; the foods that provide that. Everyone has bacteria in their mouths and you need to manage it. The little critters congregate every 24 hours hence the daily floss to break up their activity. Think of it as a sabatoge!

Another tid-bit for you is that most people who have nice strong teeth tend to have the type of saliva that carries the bacteria that promotes heavy plaque and irritates the tissue. Those people with tons of cavities tend to have immunity to that bacteria activity. It's odd, but true. You tend to get one or the other, excepting heavy drinkers and smokers who get both. This is due to their bodies needing extra nutrients to make up for the toxins, which they rarely get. Also nicotine is absorbed into the teeth which acts as a toxin against the gums. If you whiten your teeth it will get rid of it.

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