Gum Picking in Dermatillomania
Picking the scalp and face are believed to be the most common focal areas in dermatillomania, however compulsive skin picking can affect any area of the body. One of the lesser spoken about areas that people sometimes feel compelled to pick are the gums. Gum picking can entail a variety of actions on the gums from picking, scratching, excessive flossing and brushing, or pressing at the gums. Although these actions can cause pain and bleeding, and even damage to the gums, it is often precisely these sensations that the individual craves when they continue to pick. When browsing through support forums and tumblr blogs around the subject od compulsive skin picking, it is not uncommon to come across desperate pleas for help from individuals asking why they can't stop picking at their gums and whether there is something seriously wrong with them. Do you have any tips for quitting gum-picking? I'm addicted to poking my gums, and to the nausea and bleeding that comes with it. It's scaring me and I want to stop.
The first thing to know if you are a gum picker, is that you are not alone. I often have clients who start the skinpick.com online therapy program ask me to excuse them for what they share in the program because they are so embarrassed by their behaviors, because they feel that what they do is wierd and fear they will be negatively judged for this. However, there has never been a behavior a patient has shared with me that has shocked me, because chances are I have read about it on a forum or heard it from another patient before. As wierd or unnatural you may feel about your compulsive behavior, it is important to recognize that you are not alone and that there is not shame in what you are experiencing, because it is a sufferring that you have not chosen for yourself. It is however important that while you know you are not alone, that you recognize that it is a behavior that is not healthy and that needs to stop, even if you derive pleasure from it. Inevitably, constant picking and poking at your gums will cause damage.
Damage to the gum tissue can lead to bleeding and infection. Over time excessive pressure on the gums can destroy the gum line, thereby exposing more of the teeth's root. This then leads to tooth decay and cavities. Over-flossing can also cause wear of the tooth's enamel and in extreme cases can lead to peridontal bone loss.
If your gums are vulnerable to picking, it is especially important to observe good oral health care. If you find that your gums are starting to recede there are some natural remedies you can use to grow them back. Receding gums leaves your teeth vulnerable to bacteria build-up, which could lead to loss of teeth. But more importantly you should seek help to overcome the urge to pick at the gums, whether it be through therapy, peer support or implementing self-help strategies such as using fidget toys or keeping the hands occupied in valued activities.