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6 signs your gums might be unhealthy

Majority of people like to think we take care of our teeth and gums, and want to practice good oral hygiene. Most brush their teeth morning and night and go for annual check-ups at the dentist. Some of us even floss for better teeth and gum health.

But between the yearly visits to the dentist do we really know how healthy (or not) our mouths are? A toothache might prompt an emergency visit to the dental surgery, but a bit of redness in our gums or a spot of bad breath may go unnoticed.

6 signs of unhealthy gums 

To help you keep your mouth in tip-top condition, here are 6 warning signs, signalling unhealthy gums, to look out for.

1. Red or swollen gums

Healthy gums should be pink and firm to the touch, but in the early stages of unhealthy gums or a worse gum disease (known as gingivitis), they can become red, swollen or, even painful.

A build-up of plaque at the base of the tooth along the gum line is often to blame as the bacteria contained in the sticky residue sets up home, leading to irritation and infection.

2. Bleeding gums

Having red gums is something, but bleeding gums after brushing or flossing is a tell-tale sign of gum disease. The build-up of plaque at the base of the tooth that causes the gum tissue to become red or swollen can also lead to bleeding.

An improved brushing routine and a more thorough floss can often sort this out, but it may be best to visit the dentist to check whether the disease has developed and is on its way to more serious complications, such as gum recession or tooth loss.

3. A metallic taste in your mouth

You know the bleeding gums we talked about earlier? Well, not all the blood made it to the sink after you finished brushing your teeth, and it is that blood that could be causing the metallic taste in your mouth.

4. Bad breath

According to the NHS, around one in four people have bad breath on a regular basis. Not only is halitosis, to give it its scientific name, an unpleasant condition (especially for people around you), it could also be a sign of unhealthy gums or a gum disease.

Poor oral hygiene is often to blame, with any food trapped on your teeth (particularly between them) causing a build-up of bacteria in the mouth. These bacteria produce toxins and foul-smelling gasses that could lead to persistent bad breath and unhealthy gums or gum disease.

5. Excess saliva

Saliva is a natural part of a healthy body, helping to fight off germs in your mouth and prevent bad breath, as well as aiding tasting and swallowing. Too much saliva, however, could be a sign of an unhealthy build-up of bacteria that could be causing gum disease.

6. Loose teeth

Left untreated, gum disease (gingivitis) can easily develop into a more severe state, known as periodontitis or periodontal disease. Not only can this cause a worsening of the symptoms listed above, it can also affect the bones in your mouth and jaw, leading to loose teeth that could eventually fall out.

How to avoid unhealthy gums

There's a number of ways to look after your gums (and teeth) healthy and avoid gum disease. While proper brushing technique is important, brushing alone is not enough. Regular brushing does not get between the teeth, which can lead to excessive bacterial and plaque build-up that can damage the enamel of the teeth and cause gum disease if left untreated. and not just brushing. In addition, choosing the right brush and changing it regularly will help you prevent damage to your gums and to ensure your teeth are being cleaned properly and stay healthy. To put it simply, you can teeth, gums and mouth healthy by looking after your dental hygiene, and making sure you keep up regular trips to the dentist to help you spot any problems early.

The Benenden Health Cash Plan is a simple and affordable way to spread the cost of your routine healthcare and cover yourself for many other unexpected expenses. You can choose from 5 levels of cover to suit your needs from £7.65 to £75.90 per month, and claim back on optical, dental, therapies and more.


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Medically reviewed in March 2024.