Your gums mirror the health of your teeth. 

How do you know your teeth are healthy? It’s possible for tooth decay to fester for a while before you even feel it. One of the best indications are your gums. Healthy gums and healthy teeth go hand in hand. 

But what do healthy gums look like? How can you make sure they stay healthy and what can you do if you’ve already begun developing gum disease? Let’s find out.  

What do healthy gums look like?

Healthy gums should be pink and firm. They should closely hug your teeth and you shouldn’t feel pain.

Some people think that bleeding gums are automatically a sign of problems; however, it’s common for healthy gums to bleed a little in certain situations. For example, if you floss your teeth one day, but do not regularly floss, your unaccustomed gums can be prone to bleeding. It should not be a recurring problem, however.

What do unhealthy gums look like?

Unhealthy gums can deviate from this norm significantly. They may swell, become soft, and turn red. They often look inflamed and are painful. They may bleed easily, often for no apparent reason. 

The gums may also appear to be getting smaller or start pulling away from the teeth. This forms open pockets between the gums and teeth, which are a perfect home for bacteria to breed. This bacteria growth worsens your gum disease and speeds tooth decay.

What causes unhealthy gums?

There are many reasons why gums can become unhealthy. 

Poor Oral Hygiene

Without regular brushing and flossing, sticky plaque and hard tartar can build up. These substances harbor bacteria in your mouth, which can be responsible for unhealthy gums, tooth decay, and, eventually, tooth loss.


Some illnesses can affect your gum health as well. For example, people with diabetes tend to be more susceptible to infections, which can include gum disease and cavities. 


Saliva helps to wash away bad bacteria and some medications can provoke dry mouth as a side effect. Not only can this be uncomfortable, but you lose the benefit of saliva’s antimicrobial agents that help combat bad bacteria in your mouth.   

Hormonal Changes

Hormones affect everything, including your gums. Hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause can trigger gum problems by increasing blood flow to your gums, or changing the way your gums react to irritants like plaque. 


Smoking and chewing tobacco are also aggressive culprits. Nicotine restricts blood flow to your gums, causing them to constrict and pull away from the gums. This creates those little pockets that are so inviting for bacteria. Furthermore, these habits make it harder for the gum tissue to repair itself once the inflammation has started. 

Family History of Gum Disease

Finally, some people just seem to be more prone to gum problems than others. This means that proper dental hygiene habits are even more important. Knowing that you have a genetic tendency for gum disease means you can get a head start on any potential issues by being proactive with your twice-yearly dental visits. 

What are the results of unhealthy gums?

The most obvious result is an unhealthy mouth. You may experience bad breath, more frequent cavities, and other dental problems. As periodontitis progresses, your teeth can begin to shift and tooth loss can occur. 

But that’s not all.

It may surprise you to know that unhealthy gums affect far more than just your teeth. Gum disease has been linked with heart disease, the number one killer in America. Researchers have also found ties to other problems such as cancer, diabetes, dementia, and pregnancy complications. 

How can I keep my gums healthy?

The best way to keep your gums healthy and avoid all these problems we’ve mentioned is to practice good preventative dental care. Brush and floss your teeth daily and visit your dentist for a professional cleaning and exam at least twice a year. If you smoke or use chewing tobacco, quit as soon as possible. 

If you are taking a medication that induces dry mouth, talk with your dentist about strategies to keep your gums healthy and strong. 

How can I make my gums healthy again?

What if your gums are already unhealthy? Will brushing and flossing be enough? Maybe, but it’s not likely if you’ve had periodontitis for a while and it has gotten worse. The first thing you should do is visit your dentist. After an exam, they can tell you how serious your gum issues are and begin periodontal therapy. 

If your periodontal disease is bad enough, you may require a professional cleaning procedure called scaling and planing. This deep cleaning will remove all the plaque and tartar from the little pockets where your gums have pulled away from the teeth. It will also leave your teeth with a smooth surface, making it easier for your gums to reattach properly. Once you heal from this procedure, your gums will start looking pink and feeling firm once again. 

Your Dentist Near Granite City, IL

Looking for a dentist near Granite City, IL? You’ve come to the right place! Dr. May has extensive education in dentistry and a big heart for helping people. You’ll walk out of our office feeling more confident in your smile and ready to take on the world! Book your appointment today!