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Causes of Bleeding Gums and Gum Disease

Understanding Periodontal Disease

Periodontal (gum) disease is an infection that starts in the gum tissue and may spread underneath the gums to the ligaments and the bone that support the teeth. The disease is common, and it is the primary cause of tooth loss in adults, despite it being largely preventable. Periodontal disease is not usually painful until it is in an advanced state, so many people are not aware they have it. Regular dental checkups are essential to ensure the disease isn’t starting, since it is curable in its earliest stage. Therefore, it is important to know the signs and keep as close an eye on your gums as you do on your teeth.

The Importance of Having Healthy Gums

Gums are important. They cover the teeth’s support structures and protect them. When your gums are not healthy, they pull away from your teeth, allowing destructive bacteria in. Not only can the bacteria cause your teeth to become loose, it can spread throughout your body, causing a number of serious health problems. When your gums become infected, they cause chronic bad breath too. You want your gums healthy so they are a nice pink color. Red, swollen gums inflamed from disease can ruin an otherwise attractive smile.

According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost half of the people in America age 30 or older have periodontitis, usually the common chronic version. All these people once had gingivitis, and either didn’t know it or didn’t get treatment for it. Gum disease rates are significantly higher in men than women and in individuals age 60 and over. Because of the predominance of the disease, the CDC recommends adults get a comprehensive periodontal evaluation from a dentist each year.

In addition to causing problems with your oral health, gum disease can also create problems with your overall health. Any inflammation in the mouth easily travels to other places in the body, causing other more serious issues. This is why it’s so incredibly important for you to stop gingivitis when you discover it exists. Only 15 percent of people that have gum disease even know they have it in the first place, making it even more vital to keep your regular appointments with your dentist.

Reasons People Get Gum Disease

Individuals develop gum disease when they have an accumulation of plaque and tartar (hardened plaque) on their teeth. The bacteria in plaque inflames the gums, causing gingivitis. If gingivitis isn’t treated, it may advance to a more serious form of gum disease called periodontitis. Certain factors influence the likelihood of a person contacting gum disease and its severity, including:

  • Smokers and those that chew tobacco are more likely to get gum disease due to the toxins introduced through tobacco use.
  • People who are malnourished or have chronic stress may have trouble fighting off a gum infection.
  • Individuals who have a family history of gum disease are more likely to develop it. In fact, over 30 percent of people with gum disease are genetically predisposed to getting the disease.
  • Certain medications and illnesses increase a person’s chance of getting gum disease. These medications cause dry mouth, limiting the number of times saliva can wash away bacteria. Illnesses can suppress the immune system, making it more likely that someone will develop the disease.
  • People with poor oral hygiene or who have crooked teeth that are hard to clean are more likely to get gum disease. This is one of the main causes of the disease.

Periodontal Disease Symptoms

While some people with gum disease experience no symptoms until the disease is advanced, there are some early onset symptoms you can look for when taking care of your oral hygiene at home. Typical symptoms include:

  • Red or dark purple gums
  • Puffy, swollen gums
  • Tender gums that bleed easily
  • Receding gums
  • New gaps between your teeth
  • Chronic bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together
  • Loose teeth

What Are the Various Types of Gum Disease?

Gum disease is divided into gingivitis and several types of periodontitis. The most common forms of the disease are:

  • Gingivitis – This is the earliest stage of gum disease. Gingivitis is inflammation of the gum tissue. It occurs when the bacteria in plaque and tartar irritates the gums, causing them to swell and bleed easily. Gingivitis is easily treatable with a professional teeth cleaning and improved dental hygiene. The disease can be reversed, but without treatment, there is a high possibility that gingivitis could progress to periodontitis.
  • Chronic Periodontitis – Chronic periodontitis always starts out as gingivitis. Pockets begin to form between the tooth and gum, letting bacteria reach the tooth’s supporting structure. Treatment includes a procedure called scaling and root planing to clean out the bacteria from beneath the gum and encourage the gum to wrap firmly around the tooth once again. Dentists also prescribe topical or oral antibiotics. With careful monitoring and improved dental hygiene on the patient’s part, the disease is manageable.
  • Aggressive Periodontitis – Aggressive periodontitis causes rapid destruction of the tissues, ligaments and bone that hold teeth tightly in place. If the disease isn’t diagnosed early and treatment doesn’t begin quickly, the disease can lead to tooth loss. Aggressive periodontitis is much less common than chronic periodontitis, and it shows up more often in children and young adults than older adults.
  • Necrotizing Periodontitis – Necrotizing periodontitis is an extremely serious form of gum disease characterized by the necrosis of the gums, periodontal ligaments and the alveolar bone which contains the tooth sockets. The disease usually shows up in adults who are immunocompromised or malnourished. Unlike other forms of gum disease, it can cause spontaneous bleeding and excruciating pain.

How to Ensure Your Gums Stay Healthy

Maintaining good gum health isn’t difficult. You need to:

  • Brush your teeth twice daily for two minutes each time. Use a soft American Dental Association-approved toothbrush with rounded bristles of varying heights.
  • Floss daily to remove plaque your toothbrush misses.
  • Avoid sugary drinks and foods. If you have them and can’t brush afterward, rinse your mouth with water.
  • Schedule regular dental exams and teeth cleanings.

These simple things can help you maintain gum health and also keep tooth decay at bay.

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