Some of my patients say I’m psychic. I take it as a compliment.
I can mostly tell if you are happy and healthy, stressed, not been sleeping well, or if your body is completely out of sync with your biological clock.
I’m not the only ‘psychic’ dentist in Singapore though. Most periodontists are! Since the gums are a reflection of your general health, we are able to spot trouble sometimes even before your medical provider is able to do so.
So what do your gums tell me when I examine your gums and teeth?
Pink and Firm
Oh, I love seeing this! Gums that don’t bleed easily and are a nice baby pink with a firm texture are very rare. I usually shower these people with compliments as it usually means these people look after themselves. In general, good gums usually reflect good health.
Red and Puffy
When gums are red and puffy and oral hygiene is poor, it means that the patient has good old gingivitis. A good cleaning to remove bacterial plaque and oral hygiene instructions usually clears this condition up rapidly.
However, sometimes people can have red inflamed gums that bleed easily even though they have fantastic oral hygiene. So what’s up with that?
Actually, sometimes moms know best and your mom might be smarter than you think! Remember the time when your mom nagged you and told you that your red puffy gums are caused by you eating ‘heaty’ foods, that you should sleep earlier, and that gum boils are caused by you having too much ‘heat’ in your body — blah, blah, blah? And remember the time you rolled your eyes when she tried to offer you ginseng and chrysanthemum tea to ‘cool’ your body because you were stressed at work?
Well, she is not that crazy you know… There is some truth that high stress levels, not sleeping, and not eating healthily can cause more inflammation. Traditional Chinese medicine believes that heat in the body can be generated by fiery emotions. So in this case, ‘heat’ is almost equivalent to inflammation.
So a high inflammatory load in the body, which is characterized by bleeding, red and puffy gums in a generally clean mouth usually mean that you need to slow down at work, sleep more, and eat more healthy foods to boost your immunity!
Red and Puffy with Lots of Pus and Loose Teeth
Sometime I can smell diabetes even before the patient opens his or her mouth. When patients have a really high sugar level and diabetes is not under control, inflammation in the body is sky high and the immune system creates havoc in the body. The body is unable to cope with common pathogens and abscesses pop out especially in the mouth. The pus gives off a bad smell and this can cause really bad breath too!
This bad smell, combined with lots of pus in the mouth and loose teeth will prompt me to send the patient for a diabetes check immediately. I’ve picked up diabetes in some patients this way. Diabetes and gum disease are intimately connected by the way.
White, Dehydrated, and Crinkly
Ok, this is dedicated to you closet smokers out there. I CAN TELL WHEN YOU’VE BEEN SMOKING. There have been times when I look at those shrivelled up gums on the palate and those stained teeth and I ask: “Have you have been smoking?”
Very often, I get the wounded Bambi-eyed “Who me? Nooo…” look. “I just love coffee” is the next favourite line.
Well, its ok if you don’t admit to smoking, but check your gums and under your own tongue. If you see white patches that cannot be wiped off, go see your dentist immediately and it’s a good idea to tell him or her that you smoke. These patches are called oral leukoplakia and 15.6-39.2% of these lesions can turn into pre-cancer or cancer.
Yup. It’s scary. Better go get that white patch checked out.
Of course, I must qualify that nothing can or should be diagnosed just by looking at your gums. The gums suggest trouble when they don’t look healthy. Sometimes, red and bleeding gums is merely caused by having poor oral hygiene and never having been taught the correct way to brush! If you need more advice, do contact your periodontist or dentist for a check-up, and they will teach you how to clean your teeth specifically tailored to your needs!