People tend to think about their teeth more than their gums. That’s only natural – after all, you don’t need to worry about your gums falling out. However, it’s still important to keep those gums healthy, and it’s relatively easy to check whether they’re doing okay.

Here are just a few things to look out for.

Colour Change

Firstly, open your mouth wide and pull your lips gently away from your teeth. Take note of how your gums look. They should be firm and pink, and any colour change should considered a cause for concern. Gums can darken thanks to a build-up of bacteria or show small white patches thanks to a fungal or viral infection. Random dark spots could be caused by melanoma.

Rough Spots

You’ll run your tongue over part of your gums every day – it’s something that happens naturally when we talk or eat. However, you can’t reach everywhere using tongue alone, so wash your hands and feel around your gums with a finger. As you go, check for any rough spots. There are several reasons one may develop, and rough spots aren’t always a serious condition. That said, they can indicate a serious underlying issue, so see your dentist if you find one.

Swelling

As you’re checking for rough patches, try to also check for signs of swelling. This can be a little harder since the teeth below your gums naturally create ridges and valleys. You can spot abnormal swelling by feeling for areas that are slightly spongy – they may feel sore or tender when you exert any pressure. Swelling is usually caused by an abscess, a type of infection that occurs when food debris penetrates the gum line.

Bleeding

Before taking finger from mouth, gently push down where the gums rise a little between each tooth. If they bleed, something is wrong. Gum disease is the most likely culprit, so see your dentist as soon as possible if your gums are bleeding. Catching the problem now could prevent painful and expensive dental work in the future.