1. Are my gums healthy?
Healthy gums are usually pink, firm to the touch, tight to the teeth and don't bleed or hurt when you clean them. You can, however, have gum disease without seeing any signs like redness, soreness or swelling. So always ask your dental professional about the health of your gums – especially if they bleed during a checkup or cleaning. Bleeding doesn't mean that cleaning has been too rough on your gums, it likely means your gums are infected.
When you ask whether your gums are healthy and the answer is "yes," ask question 2, below.
If the dentist or dental hygienist doesn't give your gums a clean bill of health, then ask question 3.
2. What should I do to prevent gum disease?
Every person's mouth is different, so keeping your gums healthy may require more than basic oral care.
Start by asking the dentist or hygienist for a "plaque reveal" to help you see harmful bacteria that you may be missing with brushing and flossing. Using a swab, he or she will apply a non-toxic, hypoallergenic dye to your teeth. Then you rinse your mouth with water and use a mirror to see any areas on your teeth where dye remains; this shows where plaque is located. Ask for suggestions about how to change your technique for brushing and cleaning between your teeth in order to eliminate more harmful bacteria.
During your checkup the dental professional can also advise you whether changes to lifestyle, diet or medications or possibly a referral to a periodontist (gum specialist) may be helpful in order to reduce your risk of developing gum disease.
3. Should I be tested for gum disease?
If your gums aren't as healthy as they should be, don't wait until they get worse. Today, you can now have a simple, painless, inexpensive test that will definitively tell you if you have gum disease –and identify the best treatments to cure it. Ask your dentist about testing for the bacteria that can cause gum disease.