Battling those teeth taboos

Susannah Hickling 

Brush up on some embarrassing but common dental concerns and find out how to keep your smile bright.

Receding gums

  • Cause There are several: teeth grinding, brushing too hard and chronic gum disease. Chronic gum disease, caused by a build-up of plaque, leads to loss of the bone that supports the teeth. The overlying gums then recede.
  • Cure Ease up on aggressive brushing by swapping your hard brush for a soft one and changing the way you clean. Rather than scrubbing back and forth, opt for a shorter up-and-down motion. If you have gum disease, make sure you have your teeth cleaned regularly at the dentist’s. And keep flossing...
  • Caution Left untreated, gum disease can cause your teeth to become mobile. They could then either fall out or need to be removed. In other words, say “ah” not “aargh”!



  • Cause Spitting blood when you brush is a sign of gingivitis, inflamed gum tissue caused by a build-up of plaque.
  • Cure The best place to start is with your dentist or dental hygienist, who will scale and clean your teeth to remove tartar (plaque that has hardened). You’ll need to brush and floss regularly to keep gingivitis away.
  • Caution If you do nothing, you may develop chronic gum disease.


Bad breath

  • Cause Garlic, onion, spices—they can all cause halitosis. As you digest them, they enter your bloodstream and lungs. But, let’s face it, mouth odour can also stem from poor oral hygiene. Plagued by “morning breath”? This is caused by a decrease in saliva flow as you sleep. Bacteria from food particles proliferate and cause whiffy breath.
  • Cure Brush your tongue as well as your teeth. This helps because some people have fissures on their tongue where food and debris can collect and give off an unpleasant odour.
  • Caution If your mouth is as clean as a whistle and your bad breath persists, it’s time to see your doctor. Some medications, diseases and metabolic disorders can lead to halitosis.


Diabetes screening at the dentist

A recent US study found that oral blood taken at the dentist’s surgery and tested for diabetes gave highly accurate results. Researchers collected blood from the mouths and fingers of 408 people treated at dental clinics in New York. All were at risk of diabetes. There was a 99% correlation between the two different types of sample. Given that people tend to go to their dentist more often than their doctor, could this be the future of diabetes screening?