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Causes of Bleeding Gums and Gum Disease

Gum Disease Overview

Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is a common oral health condition in adults. It begins with a buildup of plaque at the gumline, an area many people miss when brushing. If the plaque and tartar, which is hardened plaque, isn’t removed, it makes gums infected and inflamed. The plaque, which contains bacteria, can get under the gums, where it’s more difficult for a dentist to manage the infection. Once the infection gets under gums, it can have serious consequences. You want your smile to be more than just another statistic. The best way to avoid gum disease is to learn as much as you can about what causes it and how you can prevent it from happening.

Why Is It Important to Have Healthy Gums?

Healthy gums are an important part of your smile. People won’t notice your gums if they are healthy when they look at your smile, but diseased gums stand out as unhealthy looking and cause your breath to smell very bad as well. Gums protect the structures that keep your teeth in place. With advanced gum disease, there is a space between the teeth and gums. Bacteria can get in and damage the ligaments and bone that hold your teeth secure.

According to a study, over 75 percent of adults in the United States have some form of gum disease. For adults age 65 or older, the rate of periodontitis is around 70 percent. Unfortunately, only about 15 percent of people that have gum disease even know they have it in the first place! This is alarming, since gum disease can have a serious impact on a person’s overall health. It is also a largely preventable disease.

Periodontal infections are linked to heart disease, the main killer of men and women in the United States. Periodontal disease is also linked to diabetes. Diabetics with gum disease have trouble controlling their blood sugar levels. An article in the Journal of Periodontology also links gum disease to premature birth and babies with low birth weights. All around the world, more and more people are trying to call attention to gum disease and its harmful effects. It’s more important than ever to get educated on the subject, so you don’t have to risk your gum health, and so much more.

The Most Common Causes of Periodontal Disease

Built-up plaque and tartar on your teeth near your gums can cause periodontal disease to start to develop. This build of plaque is usually the result of poor dental hygiene habits.

Both plaque and tartar contain bacteria that eats away at gums. Given time, the bacteria can get underneath your gums where it damages the ligaments and bone supporting your teeth. Proper brushing, meaning at least twice a day, flossing, and regular trips to the dentist can help keep plaque from building up.

However, a lack of dental hygiene is not the only cause of gum disease. There are other factors which make it easier for gum disease to develop, including:

  • Tobacco use, either smoking or chewing tobacco which introduces toxins into the mouth.
  • Hormonal changes, such as those that occur during pregnancy, puberty, menopause and menstruation.
  • Certain medications, such as cancer therapy drugs which cause dry mouth, meaning there is not sufficient saliva to wash away bacteria.
  • Diabetes and other illnesses, as it’s harder to fight infections when your immune system is compromised.
  • Crooked teeth that are hard to keep clean.

Gum Disease Symptoms

Gum disease, unless it is severe, usually isn’t painful. Symptoms you should look for include:

  • Bright red gums
  • Swollen, puffy gums
  • Gums that bleed when you brush or eat hard foods
  • Foul taste in your mouth or chronic bad breath
  • Loose teeth
  • New gaps between your teeth from teeth migrating
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together
  • Shrinking gums or gums that separate from teeth

If you notice any of these symptoms, see a dentist for an accurate diagnosis and treatment. Don’t delay, you may miss your chance of catching gum disease early and curing it.

Types of Periodontal Disease

There are several types of gum disease, including gingivitis and several types of periodontitis. The most common forms include:

  • Gingivitis – Gingivitis is mildest form of the periodontal disease. If you notice you may have red, swollen gums that bleed when you brush, see a dentist. Gingivitis is treatable and a cure is possible. Treatment usually includes a professional teeth cleaning by a dentist and an improved oral care routine. If you ignore gingivitis, it may progress to a more destructive form of gum disease.
  • Chronic Periodontitis – Chronic periodontitis is the most common form of periodontitis. Patients typically have receding gums and periodontal pockets where the gums separate from the teeth. Dentists often see the disease in people over age 35. Treatment often includes a deep dental cleaning and antibiotics. Treatment can control the infection, but chronic periodontitis requires lifetime management.
  • Aggressive Periodontitis – There is both localized and generalized aggressive periodontitis, neither of which are as common as chronic periodontitis. Both forms generally affect younger individuals who are healthy. There is a strong generic factor with aggressive periodontitis. Treatment usually includes a deep dental cleaning, antibiotic therapy, and improved oral hygiene on the patient’s end. Dentists hope to arrest the progression of ligament and bone destruction.
  • Necrotizing Periodontitis – This type of periodontitis is the most severe, destroying gum tissue, ligaments and bone. Smokers are more apt to get this disease. It’s also most common in malnourished individuals and people with compromised immune systems. Treatment consists of debridement, antibiotic therapy, coordinating with the patient’s physician to treat any underlying disease, improved dental hygiene and smoking cessation.

How to Prevent Gum Disease

You can keep your gums healthy by taking care of your teeth. Brush twice daily for two minutes and floss once a day. You can gently brush your tongue as well, as it can trap plaque. Schedule an appointment with a dentist in Owings Mills for a routine exam and a professional teeth cleaning every six months. Simple lifestyle changes can also help. Stop smoking and avoid sugary foods and beverages.

Taking care of your gums could save your teeth, and your overall health! Don’t let gum disease get the best of you.

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