Article written by: Victoria Clark

Teaching my patients to know their gums means they are more in control of their oral health

When we think about colour and the mouth we immediately think about the colour of our teeth. Granted, tooth colour is an important factor for most people and sometimes whitening or tooth restoration can make a smile a beautiful one. It can add a sparkle that otherwise lacks, often improves one's selfesteem amazingly and can takes years off a person's overall look. As a hygienist, I talk with many of my patients about improving tooth colour - but I talk with many more patients about the colour of their gums.

I learn a lot by looking at my pThe primary role of a dental hygienist is of an educator and I believe teaching my patients to know their gums means they are more in control of their oral health and are better equipped to know when changes occur. So I encourage you to go into a brightly lit room with a mirror and have a good look in your mouth by pulling back your lips. Is your tongue pink? Does it have a white/yellow/brown coating on it? All these things tell us a story of how happy your mouth is.soft tissues and, of course, I have the benefit of a trained eye. Yet I believe my patients have much to learn by looking closely at their own mouth also. I like to use the ‘three Cs' when discussing gums with my patients, which involves their colour, contour and consistency. Gum colour differs with every person but there are certain signs of health we look for. As a rule, gums have a light-pink colour with a uniform tone throughout. Some people with darker complexions have a brownish pigment to their gums as well. 

The contour should show a firm-looking texture, scalloping closely along each tooth. A defined and sharp triangle of gum between each tooth is what you’re looking for. Inspecting the gums closely, we should also be able to see some small closely clustered bumps known as stippling, which is often described as an orange peel effect. Consistency of the above two factors is important to have throughout the mouth and demonstrates health. Inconsistencies can indicate localised infections or gum diseases that need attention. This is one of the important things I look for at every dental hygiene appointment and is invaluable for detecting irregularities in a person’s oral health. If I see an area of gum that has a change of colour or contour it can highlight many things as simple as a poor-fitting tooth restoration or inadequate plaque removal with a toothbrush in that area. Or it can help in the initial diagnosis of more serious conditions such as localised gum disease or even the need for further investigation into the possibility of oral cancer. 

The primary role of a dental hygienist is of an educator and I believe teaching my patients to know their gums means they are more in control of their oral health and are better equipped to know when changes occur. So I encourage you to go into a brightly lit room with a mirror and have a good look in your mouth by pulling back your lips. Is your tongue pink? Does it have a white/yellow/brown coating on it? All these things tell us a story of how happy your mouth is. 

Believe it or not, some external things can alter the appearance of the three Cs and give false readings. For example, cigarette smoking often mimics the characteristics of a healthy gum colour, contour and consistency and often needs a keener examination by a professional to determine the true health of the mouth.

While I’ve given you some general indicators to look out for regarding your oral health, a visit to a dental hygienist or dentist will boost your confidence in getting to know what is looking as it should and what is not when evaluating the colour of your mouth. 

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