All for Life

Sensitive & bleeding gums

Article by Dr Arvind Narayan

  1. What is meant by sensitivity of the gum?

When a patient complains of sensitivity in the gum, they usually refer to two things: one, their gums bleed when they brush or when they eat certain foods like apples for example. Two, their teeth can be sensitive near the gum line, especially when eating or drinking something hot or cold. Both problems are distinct and need different treatment approaches.

  1. Who are at risk?

Bleeding gums is usually due to a condition known as ‘Gingivitis’; in simple terms it is inflammation of the gums that support the teeth. The most common reason for this is dental plaque or tartar which accumulates between the teeth and gums. This is food debris and bacteria which harden over time and cause inflammation and bleeding.

Gingivitis can affect everyone and is much more common in patients with diabetes. Apart from brushing the teeth twice a day and flossing, visiting the dentist and getting the teeth cleaned once a year can prevent this condition.

  1. Causes of sensitivity?

Sensitive teeth can be due to multiple causes, dental decay can cause sensitivity, more commonly- aggressive brushing and causing the tooth enamel to wear off also ends up in sensitive teeth.

  1. Can inflamed gums cause tooth sensitivity?

Sensitivity can happen in inflamed gums as well. If gum inflammation is allowed to persist without treatment, it can cause damage to the other supporting structures of the tooth- this is called periodontitis. The initial symptoms include teeth sensitivity to hot and cold and ultimately this would lead to tooth loss.

  1. Symptoms of dental sensitivity?

Teeth have nerves within them, any tooth can feel sensitive when subjected to very hot or very cold food. On the other hand, if a person is unable to enjoy things like ice- cream, a cup of hot coffee or sweet and sour foods, he would need to visit the dentist to check it out.

  1. Does tooth sensitivity cause bleeding?

As mentioned, if sensitivity is due to a gum problem- periodontitis- it can cause bleeding, otherwise hypersensitive teeth usually do not bleed.

  1. How to treat sensitivity?

Like any other disease, self-medication is not recommended for hypersensitive teeth. You would need to visit the dentist to identify the cause of sensitive teeth and treat it appropriately. This would involve something as simple as a tooth scaling if the sensitivity is due to gum inflammation. In most other cases patients need fillings in decayed or worn out teeth. Using a tooth paste or other home remedies may end up worsening the problem.

  1. What is the best toothpaste for sensitive gums?

Certain de-sensitizing toothpastes can help by sealing exposed tubules when they are worn out by aggressive or improper brushing. However, a toothpaste is not a panacea for all sensitivity, it is preferable that a dentist prescribes the tooth paste after examining the condition. Continuously using a de-sensitizing paste maybe detrimental since the patient may be damaging the enamel further without having symptoms.

  1. What kind of precautions should we take to avoid such issue?

Brushing twice a day for two minutes at a time and flossing regularly will help maintain your teeth and gums. Proper brushing technique, using a soft or medium toothbrush avoids damage to the tooth enamel. In some patients an electric toothbrush and even a water flosser (waterpik) can be helpful. The most important thing is to visit the dentist every year!

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