Gum disease: why are many of us ignoring the warning signs?

New research reveals many people may be increasing their risk of developing advanced gum disease by ignoring blood in their spit when they brush.

Dentists are urging us to protect our teeth against gum disease.
Dentists are urging us to protect our teeth against gum disease.

A survey by GSK, the makers of Corsody Ultra Clean toothpaste, has revealed that 84 per cent of people know that bleeding gums is a sign of gum disease, yet nearly half (48 per cent) would ignore blood in their spit if they noticed it when brushing because no pain is associated.

“If you spit blood when brushing you may be on a journey to gum disease so it’s a warning sign that most definitely shouldn’t be ignored,” said Dentist Dr Tina Tanna.

“Whilst you may be able to rinse the blood away, if you carry on ignoring it, you could start to experience some more noticeable and serious signs of gum disease that, if left untreated, could eventually lead to tooth loss.”

Of the people surveyed who said they would ignore blood in their spit, 15 per cent said they consider blood in their spit to be normal and nearly a quarter (24 per cent) said they thought it would resolve itself on its own with no treatment.

The survey also discovered that more education is needed on how to treat the initial stages of gum disease, with over a fifth (21 per cent) of people questioned saying they would be unsure what to do if they noticed blood in their spit when brushing.

However, the research did reveal that people are educated on one of the causes of bleeding gums – plaque. Over half (56 per cent) knew that plaque can build-up and irritate gums and 53 per cent recognised that plaque should be removed with twice daily brushing.

Over two thirds (68 per cent) also knew that gum disease is a preventable condition and 49 per cent recognised that it indicates you have poor oral hygiene.

“Bleeding gums are caused by a sticky film called plaque bacteria, which can constantly build up around, on and in between your teeth, as a result of poor oral hygiene,” said Tina. “If it’s not brushed away, plaque can irritate gums and cause them to bleed so it’s always important to practice good oral hygiene to prevent this from happening.

“To help prevent a build-up of plaque, it’s important that teeth are brushed for two minutes, twice a day, with a fluoride toothpaste. It’s also crucial to floss in between the teeth with dental floss or tape to help remove plaque from those hard to reach areas. It’s not a good idea to use a fingernail as our hands often harbour nasty bacteria.”

Tina added: “If someone notices blood in their spit when brushing, then I would advise them to visit a dentist as they will be able to recommend an appropriate course of treatment depending on the severity of the symptoms.

“There are also specialist products, such as toothpastes or mouthwashes, available which can help to treat the symptoms of early gum disease to stop it progressively getting any worse.”