My gums!
April 16, 2008 3:19 PM   Subscribe

What is going on with my teeth / gums (very disgusting stuff inside)? If you, like me, do not like to hear or see sensitive parts of the body going wrong, please do not read this question.

What do you reckon is going on with my gums or teeth?

To begin with: I'm an idiot. I smoke like crazy. For at least six months, every cigarette that I've smoked has made my mouth hurt. I give up for a day or two, the pain subsides, then I smoke again. I'm an idiot.

Secondly: I'm British, so my teeth even if I were not an idiot would not look as good as yours (assuming you're American).

Thirdly: I am freaked out by the body in general and by squishy parts such as gums in particular. Consequently, I went to the dentist once in 1992, once in 2004 (after which I had extensive treatment under sedation) and then last week.

Fourthly, and to wrap all this up: I went to the dentist for the first time in four years last week. My nervousness at having anyone even look at or touch my teeth really exasperated the dentist: I would feel the same if I were him. The result of the visit was that I needed five fillings. OK. BUT during all three of these dental visits, over 16 years, I have pointed out the weird things going on with my gums and the dentists have shrugged their shoulders as if it's no big deal. They've just been concerned with the fillings. That may just be the NHS.

Here is a recent (20 mins ago) photo taken of the first few teeth on my upper right side; it is quite blurry, thank god. The main problem, previously, when I've felt brave enough to have a look, has been that my gums in that area have holes in them through which I could see white stuff (bone??). But in this photo, and in the mirror, it is clear that the white material is sticking out, is poking through the gums. It is horrible, I'm sorry. What could it possibly be?

I repeat, I went to an actual dentist a week ago, even if I acted like a wimp. So I am not asking you to replace a professional.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Could it be hyperdontia? Maybe the "white stuff" is actual teeth.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 3:26 PM on April 16, 2008

That's extraordinary that the dentist didn't say anything.

That kind of looks like my canines when I was a kid before I got all kinds of orthodonty - my jaw was too small and my teeth were too big so they started growing out of my gums.

I assume that you've never had your wisdom teeth pulled? It's possible that they're coming in and cramming your teeth forward.

Go see another dentist - tell them your concerns (white things growing out of your gums and your uneasiness with the whole 'seeing a dentist' thing) beforehand. You might want to shop around a little bit.
posted by porpoise at 3:28 PM on April 16, 2008

You mean the dentist couldn't tell you what the white things are? If that's the case I say, dude, it's the NHS. (All my British friends avoid NHS dental like the plague. And I did too when I lived there.)
posted by meerkatty at 3:29 PM on April 16, 2008

Extra information: I'm in my thirties, if that makes a difference to theories about me still growing new teeth. Also, three out of four wisdom teeth were removed in 2004. The only one remaining, which though I dare not look may well be black with decay, is in the lower left of my jaw: as far as teeth can get from this horror in my own mouth.
posted by cincinnatus c at 3:34 PM on April 16, 2008

First: For the love of reason quit smoking. You're damaging your teeth by doing THAT .

Second: That could be anything from oral cancer to hyperdontia to wearing through the gum to the bone. These questions are silly to ask to people who are not your dentist. See your dentist AGAIN. Watch out for nerve damage.
posted by kldickson at 3:35 PM on April 16, 2008

Your gums are receding around beads of tartar that are building up on your teeth. From the darkness of the tooth beside it, it would appear you are experiencing some root damage due to this. My suggestion is to

1) Research someone who specializes in "gentle dentistry." I'm not sure how you go about finding a dentist in the NHS system, but gentle dentistry is just a newer school of thought that understands that going to the dentist is scary.

They will often offer you sedation even for cleanings, if you're that anxious. They sometimes play music. They stop when something makes you nervous. You'll probably feel much more comfortable and be able to articulate your questions.

Go to this dentist and have them sedate you and scrape off the calculus that your gums are fleeing from.

2) Start flossing. Floss, floss, floss. Your gums will bleed for the first few days, but flossing is the kindest thing you can do for your gums. It will help make them healthier, and you will experience less squishiness, less mooshiness, and less overall gum damage. Floss first. Brush. Finish with Listerine or similar.

3) Smoke on the other side of your mouth. If that's not helping, smoke through a cigarette holder. Ideally, quit smoking.

I am not a dentist but I am a dental technician's daughter.
posted by headspace at 3:39 PM on April 16, 2008

First off, you're teeth aren't in bad shape because you're British. They're in bad shape because you've had no interest in keeping your mouth in good shape, three times in sixteen years, I mean, come on.

Stage one is to get over your fear of looking at your own body and then deal with it, it's the only way you're going to be able to get this solved. I'm guessing if you're too afraid to even look at the state of your teeth, your not taking good care with regards to dental hygene (even ignoring the smoking).

While I lived in England, I had a fantastic dentist on the NHS, she worked miracles on a badly cracked tooth and was great at the general stuff but perhaps your dentist isn't one of the better ones. Go back to the dentist and ask directly what's going on with your gums, don't settle for a shrug, ask them for a plain answer about what it could be because you're concerned.

If you'd prefer, go to your G.P and ask, they might be able to tell you directly, or be able to refer you to a decent dentist.

You pay for all this health-care, you might as well use it.
posted by Static Vagabond at 3:54 PM on April 16, 2008

I had a new tooth grow (behind my teeth, lower jaw, right side) when I was 25 or 26, pretty much out of nowhere.
posted by jedrek at 3:59 PM on April 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Headspace nailed it. I see some horrifying dentition - you do not fall into this category.
posted by rotifer at 4:00 PM on April 16, 2008

your favorite dentist sucks - find a new one immediately

stop smoking - there's no easy or polite way to say this - smoking plays havoc with the gums, & then there's always the romance & fun of oral cancer

from yr photo it does look like abnormal dentition may be a problem, but you should probably also inquire with your new!improved!dentist as to whether gingivitis or periodontitis are possible diagnoses, also known as being "long in the tooth"

like others have recommended, getting into the habit of flossing is essential - also, find a good mouthwash, something with alcohol to kill the little bacteria beasties (i.e., it should sting a bit when you're using it) - use it every night (before going to bed) & every morning (after breakfast)

good luck!
posted by jammy at 5:02 PM on April 16, 2008

dear british dude,

i think you have some hidden teeth up there that are coming in ('erupting') out your gums. that photo looks very much like what happened to me, and that was the deal. here is my story. i have some genetic mutation where my baby canine teeth (two uppers and one lower) never fell out. the adult teeth were still up there in the gums. my dentist didn't realize this till i was 17. then he said, well, it might be that that the baby teeth never fall out and everything is just as it is and dandy. then, when i was about 22-23, a freaky small pin-sized hole appeared in my upper gum. i know it was pin-sized because i stuck a pin in it. and hit a hard white substance. like you, i was freaked out and thought it was bone and i was seriously fucked. but it wasn't too long till i remembered about the baby-adult teeth situation. i kind of ignored it for a while. and then slowly but inevitably, the adult tooth started growing the only place available for it: straight out my gum, making me a sort of lopsided vampire. i guess the other canines were a bit more recalcitrant. my dental insurance people told me it was 'cosmetic' ("i have a TOOTH. growing out of my GUMS," i said. "oh, you'd be surprised at the freaky stuff that happens to people. teeth growing out of the roofs of their mouths. yours is nothing.") and therefore wasn't covered. anyway, years later, i went to an orthodontist and they are fixing me up. it is a long and involved process. first they pulled out my baby teeth, giving me a charming hillbilly appearance. i knew the next step was pulling the adult teeth down into place, via force if necessary. i pleaded with them to let time work its magic and see if the adult teeth would voluntarily grow down into the nice spaces made for them. we waited about 6 months and no cigar. so then, this was fun, they gave me nitrous oxide and cut my gums open, exposed the adult teeth, affixed a bracket and a small chain, and then pulled the teeth out slowly. after about 6 more months of that, they put me in full braces, which i will have to wear for 2 more years. slowly i am becoming normal. the adult teeth are almost all the way down. of course they are all twisted around and funky, so the braces need to stay till the whole set is straight and gap-free. i live in a barbaric country and am paying for this out of my own pocket, about $7000 total once you include the oral surgeon trips to pull baby teeth and slice gums open with nitrous oxide. of course the dollar is falling so this might not seem a huge sum to you, but yeah.

it sucks but c'est la vie. i could have cancer instead.
that photo of your mouth looks just like my eager canine tooth that was yearning to be free.

mefi mail me if you want more info.
posted by apostrophe at 8:36 PM on April 16, 2008

wow. If you can take another, more clear picture, it would be a little more helpful. Also, is the white area hard, or soft, spongy? Has it always been as large as it appears now? Is it covered with a thin skin of tissue? Does it erupt with pus? Bleed when poked at? It has been this way for years?

I can't believe that you get no response to a direct question about it, the dentist just tells you it's nothing to worry about but doesn't tell you what it is?

My only advice is to get in to see a different dentist, ask him directly and specifically what the heck that is and what can be done to fix it if needed. Get over whatever it is about dental visits that has made you neglect an important part of your body's health and get with regular cleanings and care. It will tough through the first stages of getting your gum health back to a maintainable level.
posted by Jazz Hands at 10:48 PM on April 16, 2008

Can I just add...please don't neglect your dental health. I'm glad you finally saw a dentist and agree with everyone that you should find a better one. But please make this the start of you taking better care of your teeth and gums. Flossing, especially, is so important. Many people don't know that gum disease can lead to heart disease. Yes, it's true. Bacteria from gum disease can enter the bloodstream and possibly harm your heart.

Oh, and of course stop smoking :-)
posted by bluekrauss at 11:13 PM on April 16, 2008

I had a similar thing happen to me - a milk tooth was in place, and instead of forcing it out, the adult tooth grew in behind it. Both teeth eventually rotted, because I couldn't clean them properly

I too have to have sedation, and I'm still a "difficult patient". Find a dentist you feel comfortable with, and pay for it. NHS dentists are hell. I speak from the experience of going to 5 different one's over the years.
posted by Solomon at 4:34 AM on April 17, 2008

When you start flossing (you are going to, aren't you?) if your gums bleed a little, take some Vitamin C. It makes the capillaries less fragile and will help that, which is sort of alarming, if you're easily alarmed, and I think we've established that.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 8:15 PM on April 20, 2008

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