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Causes of Bleeding Gums and Gum Disease

Gum Disease Explained

Most likely you’ve been hearing about the dangers of cavities and tooth decay since your youth. However, there is another, more silent disease that you should have been hearing about as well. Gum disease, AKA periodontal disease in the clinical term, forms when the bacteria in plaque accumulates on your teeth and starts to irritate and inflame your gums. Brushing twice daily for two minutes removes some plaque, but you also need to floss and get regular dental cleanings. Plaque not removed regularly can turn into tartar, which is hardened plaque and needs a professional cleaning to remove. Gum disease starts out as gingivitis, which is gum inflammation, and can progress to a destructive form of gum disease called periodontitis.

Gum Health Is an Important Part of Your Overall Oral Health

Gums have an important function. They protect the bone holding the tooth sockets and act as a barrier against the bad bacteria in your mouth. Without healthy gums providing a seal, inflammation can enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body.

Gum health is also important as unhealthy, infected gums cause bad breath and look unattractive. Healthy gums are pink and frame teeth nicely. With gum disease, the gums swell, look puffy and are usually bright red or purplish. They detract from your smile.

Periodontal disease is age related. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of all Americans age 30 or older have periodontitis. About 70 percent of Americans age 65 and over have the disease. Children rarely get gum disease, but teenagers can get gingivitis if they don’t brush and floss properly. Gum disease is also gender related, affecting more men than women.

How Gum Disease Affects Your Overall Health

According to the NHS, gum inflammation can slowly damage the blood vessels in the brain and heart. This will increase your chance of having a heart attack or a stroke. Also, you may be more likely to develop a heart condition or diabetes, but that depends on many other factors as well. The good news is that you can reduce your risk of developing these conditions by taking good care of your gums and visiting the dentist regularly.
Causes and Risk Factors for Gum Disease

Gum disease develops when there is an accumulation of plaque along the gum line. Poor brushing and flossing habits are almost always to blame. The bacteria in plaque irritates the gums, causing gingivitis. With treatment, this early form of gum disease is curable. Without treatment, gingivitis can turn into periodontitis. At this stage, gum disease isn’t reversible, but it can be managed to control the infection and prevent possible tooth loss.

Risk factors that make people more susceptible to developing gum disease include:

  • Smoking or using any kind of tobacco products. The toxins that are introduced into the bloodstream can hinder the body’s ability to fight off infection.
  • Genetics play a huge role in the likelihood of developing the disease. Over 30 percent of those that have gingivitis are genetically predisposed to getting it, maling trips to the dentist vital to their good oral health.
  • Certain medications can cause dry mouth. Dry mouth in turn prevents the saliva from rinsing away the bacteria that causes the infection.
    Illnesses that lower a person’s ability to fight infections. A compromised immune system can allow bacteria in the mouth to proliferate and create conditions ripe for gum disease to set in.
  • Crooked teeth make it more difficult to keep them clean.
  • Fluctuations in hormones that women experience during puberty, menopause and menstruation make the gums more sensitive. This can lead to an increased risk for developing gingivitis.

Symptoms of Gum Disease

You need to be careful with gingivitis because most people don’t even know they have it. Most of the signs and symptoms of gum disease may not be very intense and won’t include pain. However, for those that do have symptoms, they may include some of the following:

  • Gums that change from pink to bright red or a purplish color
  • Puffy, swollen gums
  • Gums which bleed easily while brushing or eating hard food
  • Chronic bad breath
  • Visible pus between teeth and gums
  • A change in the way teeth fit together
  • Migrating teeth that cause new gaps
  • Loose teeth

If you notice any of these signs, schedule an appointment with a dentist for an exam.

Moving from Gingivitis to Periodontitis

Gingivitis is a form of gum disease caused by plaque buildup on the teeth at the gumline. If you have gingivitis, your gums become inflamed and swell. They may also bleed easily when you brush or bite into hard food. It is an inflammation of the gums that causes redness and swelling. If left untreated, gingivitis can advance to a more severe form of gum disease. Treatment usually consists of a dental cleaning and improved dental hygiene.

When gingivitis progresses, it turns into periodontitis, and there are several kinds you can develop. It all depends on your risk factors and lifestyle.

  • Chronic Periodontitis – Chronic periodontitis is the most common type of periodontitis. The disease starts as untreated gingivitis and progresses slowly, although there are times of rapid progression. Patients with chronic periodontitis have chronic gum inflammation and pockets which form between the teeth and gums. Bacteria spreads under the gum and will begin destroying the support structures for the teeth without treatment. Treat often consists of a deep dental cleaning to remove bacteria from beneath the gums and antibiotics. The disease is manageable, but not reversible.
  • Aggressive Periodontitis – Aggressive periodontitis is a rapidly advancing disease that is less common than chronic periodontitis. Early diagnosis is essential to successful treatment. While improved oral hygiene habits are an essential part of treatment, the amount of plaque and tarter does not correspond with the severity of the disease. The disease usually affects younger, healthy individuals than chronic periodontitis, including children.
  • Necrotizing Periodontitis – Necrotizing periodontitis may occur suddenly. It is defined as the death of cells, either gum, ligament or bone. Younger patients with immunosuppression conditions or other health issues usually get necrotizing periodontitis.

How Can I Protect My Gums?

Protecting your gums from disease isn’t difficult, just follow these recommendations:

  • Limit your consumption of sugary foods and drinks
  • Quit tobacco use
  • Brush twice daily with an ADA approved toothbrush
  • Floss once a day
  • Use an anti-bacterial mouthwash
  • Schedule regular dental exams and teeth cleanings

A dentist in Lake Katrine can help you determine your current gum health and make suggestions on how to improve it.

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