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Causes of Bleeding Gums and Gum Disease

Gum Disease: An Overview

The clinical name for gum disease is periodontal disease. This common dental disease is an infection which attacks the gums first and can spread to the ligaments and bone that support teeth. Until gum disease is severe, it’s not painful, so many people are not aware they have it. One of the main reasons individuals should see a dentist for regular checkups is so the dentist can catch the disease before it does permanent damage. Gum disease is the main reason people over age 30 lose teeth.

Is Gum Health Important?

Gum health is very important. Your gums protect the ligaments and the bone that hold teeth in your mouth. They should wrap firmly around your teeth, but if you have gum disease, they can separate from your teeth. This allows bacteria to get under the gum where it can damage the teeth’s supporting structures and travel throughout the mouth and other parts of the body. Healthy gums are also pink, making them the prefect frame for your pearly whites. Unhealthy gums look red and swollen, detracting from your smile.

According to the American Dental Association, approximately 42 percent of adults in the United States who are age 29 or older have periodontitis affecting at least one tooth. Periodontitis is a more serious form of gum disease when left untreated can cause tooth loss. Nearly eight percent of the individuals with periodontitis have the most severe form of the disease; a shocking statistic for anyone with gingivitis. The best way for you to protect your dental health and avoid periodontitis in the first place, is to learn as much as you can about gum disease.

Far from just impacting your mouth, gum disease can also cause and be caused by other diseases or factors. In fact, according to the American Academy of Periodontology, people with periodontal disease have a greater risk of having a heart attack and the disease can also exacerbate existing heart problems. The purpose of this information is not to scare you, it’s to help you understand how something so silent can cause so much damage in a short amount of time. Armed with knowledge, this is your best tool for avoiding gum disease.

Why Does Gum Disease Develop?

Gum disease begins when the bacteria in plaque irritate and inflame the gingival tissues (gums). If you don’t remove plaque regularly at the gumline with good oral hygiene and regular professional teeth cleanings, it can cause pockets between the teeth and gums, allowing the bacterial infection to reach the ligaments and bone supporting the teeth.

  • Some people are more susceptible to periodontal disease, such as:
    Individuals who use tobacco
  • Women undergoing hormonal changes and fluctuations associated with pregnancy, menopause or puberty
  • Individuals who are under stress, since they cannot fight the infection as well as other people
  • People who have a family history of gum disease, this accounts for over 30 percent of cases
  • Individuals taking certain medications, like oral contraceptives or anti-depressants, that negatively affect gum health and cause dry mouth
  • People with poor nutrition as they are unable to fight off diseases easily

What Symptoms Should I Look For?

Gum disease is typically painless until it is in an advanced stage. It’s important to check your gums while brushing and flossing so you can see a dentist for a diagnosis if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Gums that appear purplish or bright red, not pink
  • Tender, puffy or shiny gums
  • Gums that bleed easily
  • Gums which are separating from teeth
  • A change in your bite
  • Foul taste in your mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • Unexplained gaps between teeth

Understanding Periodontal Disease and Its Different Classifications

Gingivitis is a chronic inflammatory condition affecting nearly 75 percent of all adult Americans at some point in their life. It occurs when the bacteria and toxins in plaque buildup irritate the gums. Gums turn red, appear swollen and may bleed easily. If your gums have these signs, call your dentist for a diagnosis. He or she will suggest a dental cleaning to remove plaque and tartar, which is hardened plaque you can’t remove yourself. Once your teeth are clean, he or she will go over your dental care habits to make improvements so the disease does not return. Reversing gingivitis will prevent it from advancing to a more destructive form of gum disease.

When gingivitis isn’t treated, it turns into periodontitis, a more severe form of the disease and far more difficult to treat.

  • Chronic Periodontitis – An accumulation of plaque and untreated gingivitis leads to chronic periodontitis. It is the most common type of periodontitis and it can lead to soft tissue and bone loss as pockets between the teeth and gums allow bacteria to reach the tooth’s supporting structures. The destruction is gradual, but it can occur rapidly in spurts. Dentists manage the infection with antibiotics and scaling and root planing procedures to clean out the pockets and encourage the gums to reattach firmly to the teeth. Patients have to practice meticulous dental hygiene at home at quit smoking to make treatment more effective.
  • Aggressive Periodontitis – Aggressive periodontitis is divided into localized and generalized forms. Both are seen in younger individuals with no systemic diseases. Although less common than chronic periodontitis, the disease is more deadly, with rapid bone and attachment loss. Having a family member with aggressive periodontitis is a major risk factor in developing the disease. Aggressive periodontitis treatment is vigorous to to stop further destruction and help prevent tooth loss.
  • Necrotizing Periodontitis – Necrotizing periodontitis often results in tooth loss as the disease kills the tissues and bone that support teeth. It is a relatively rare form of periodontitis that mainly affects patients with severely suppressed immune systems or who are severely malnourished or under prolonged, intense stress. Symptoms include intense pain and a foul, metallic taste in the mouth.

How Can I Protect My Gums?

Protecting your gums is relatively easy as it mainly involves doing the same things you would do to protect your teeth. Brush two or three times a day, taking at least two minutes to reach the front, back and top of each tooth. Floss daily and use an antiplaque mouthwash. Talk to a dentist in Fairfax about your risk factors for gum disease and how often you should have regular exams and teeth cleanings.

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10614 Warwick Avenue, Ste A, Fairfax, VA 22030

(703) 565-2503