Glaxo Smith Kline have rolled out some of the most effective and controversial advertising campaigns for Corsodyl mouthwash, the theme being: bleeding gums are dangerous – don’t ignore them.

It’s of course alarming to see a young woman returning home after a night out, and removing her dress, breast-lifting pads, hair extensions, false eyelashes – and a dental plate.

There’s also the advert about the woman who applies mascara and her eye bleeds – the narrator asks if you would ignore that?

Finally, there’s the advert about the beautiful woman getting ready to go out and then when she brushes her teeth she spits blood.

The narrator advises that bleeding gums are one of the first signs of gum disease, which is a leading cause of tooth loss.

It’s true that bleeding gums can be a sign of gum disease, and that the first sign of gum disease may be blood on your toothbrush when you clean your teeth.

Your gums may also bleed when you are eating, leaving a bad taste in your mouth. Your breath may become unpleasant, which could be a sign of a form of gum disease – gingivitis (swollen gums).

As gingivitis gets worse, tiny pockets of infection form at the ‘point of attachment’ (where your gums meet your teeth). Your gums will probably not be sore.

Over time, the infection breaks down the gum tissue that attaches to the teeth. This is called ‘attachment loss.’ At this point, you will notice swelling, bleeding or colour changes in your gums.

Left untreated, gingivitis can turn into periodontal disease. As the disease gets worse, the bone fixing the teeth to the jaw is lost, making the teeth loose.

If this is not treated, the teeth may eventually fall out.  In fact, more teeth are lost through periodontal disease than through tooth decay.

Symptoms of periodontitis include:

  1. Receding gums
  2. Visible pockets of inflammation along the gum line
  3. Gum pain
  4. Unusual sensitivity to temperature changes

Every time you have a dental exam, we look for signs of gum disease.

We may use a dental tool called a ‘periodontal probe’ to measure where your gums attach to your teeth. Healthy gums attach to teeth just below the edge of the gum. If your gums attach to your teeth below this point, it is a sign of gum disease.

If you have gum disease, getting rid of plaque and tartar gives your gums a chance to get better. That’s why in the early stages of gum disease, the best treatment is:

  1. For your hygienist to remove built-up tartar
  2. Brushing twice a day to remove plaque
  3. Flossing once a day to remove plaque

The good news is gum disease can almost always be prevented. If it starts, it can be treated and can even be turned reversed in its early stages.

If gum disease is not treated, you can have gums that are always sore, red and puffy, get a painful infection (called an abscess) in the area between your teeth and gums, or lose your teeth.

Without enough gum tissue and bone to hold your teeth in place, they can become loose and fall out. Nobody wants to have these things happen. With regular care, they won’t.

It is important that you see your dentist regularly so that the ‘point of attachment’ or ‘pocket sizes’ can be measured and compared at subsequent appointments.

This is the best way to watch for changes in gum health and protect you from tooth loss.

Finally, the answer is not to self medicate with Corsodyl. Whilst Corsodyl does help with active gum disease – it can cause staining if wrongly used. Your dentist can advise you on its use.