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Posted on: April 20, 2021
Causes of Bleeding Gums and Gum Disease
Understanding Gum Disease
Did you know that your oral health is closely linked to your overall health? For example, if you have diabetes, a heart condition, or a compromised immune system, you’re at an increased risk for developing gum disease. Gum disease is a common condition that affects millions of adults, and it’s an infection caused by the accumulation of bacteria, plaque, and tartar. Also called periodontal disease, gum disease can cause tooth loss if left untreated. In fact, gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. Something most people want to avoid at all costs. Keep reading for more information on how to prevent this progressive disease.
What Are Gingivitis and Periodontitis?
Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease. In the early stages of gingivitis, the bacteria in plaque build up and produce toxins that cause inflammation and make your gums more prone to bleeding when you’re brushing or flossing. Unlike periodontitis, gingivitis doesn’t damage the soft gum tissues or supporting bones. It’s also the only form of periodontal disease that can be reversed; visiting your dentist twice a year for professional cleanings and exams and brushing and flossing each day at home can successfully reverse gingivitis.
Gingivitis leads to periodontitis if you don’t practice good oral hygiene. If you have periodontitis, the inner layer of gum tissue and the supporting bones start to separate from your teeth, forming small spaces called pockets. These pockets collect food debris and bacteria, causing an infection. As periodontitis advances, the pockets between your teeth and gums deepen. The bacteria and debris that get trapped lead to a serious infection that can destroy the bones and gum tissue, causing your teeth to loosen and shift.
Periodontitis can’t be reversed, although treatment can prevent further damage to your bones and soft tissues and prevent further infection. Serious cases of periodontitis may require periodontal surgery to prevent tooth loss.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Gum Disease?
Gum disease usually begins when plaque forms on your teeth. Plaque is a thin, sticky film of bacteria that forms on your teeth daily.
Plaque is the primary cause of gum disease and bleeding gums. While plaque forms daily, if plaque remains on your teeth, it hardens into tartar. The bacteria found in plaque and tartar can spread beneath the gum line, producing toxins that cause inflammation and irritation, leading to gingivitis.
There are also many lifestyle factors that can increase your risk of gum disease. Here’s a closer look at each:
- Smoking: If you regularly smoke or use tobacco products, it can negatively affect the function of your gum tissue. This can make you more vulnerable to infections, including periodontal disease.
- Hormonal changes: The hormonal changes that occur during puberty, menopause, menstruation, and pregnancy can make your gum tissue more sensitive, making you more susceptible to gingivitis and gum disease.
- Prescription medications: If you take certain prescription drugs, it may affect the health of your gums. Reduced saliva production is a common side effect of many prescription medications, including anti-angina medications and anticonvulsants. This can leave you with a dry mouth, a condition that encourages the growth of bacteria.
- Medical conditions: Certain illnesses and diseases, especially those that affect your immune system, can also affect the condition of your gums. Diabetes, HIV, and cancer are just a few examples of conditions that make you more susceptible to different infections, including gum disease.
- Family history: If a member of your family had gum disease, you might be at an increased risk of developing the bacterial infection. In fact, 30 percent of those with gum disease have a genetic predisposition to the disease.
- Stress: Researchers have found that stress might make it more difficult for your body to fight infections such as periodontal disease.
- Poor oral care: If you don’t brush and floss daily, plaque, bacteria, and tartar can accumulate on your teeth, causing irritation and inflammation. This makes you much more susceptible to bleeding gums and other symptoms of gum disease.
What Does Gum Disease Look Like?
Healthy gums are firm to the touch, fit tightly around your teeth, and are pink in color. Unhealthy gums can appear bright red, feel tender to the touch, or appear swollen and puffy. However, if you’re still in the early stages of periodontal disease, it’s possible to not experience any symptoms at all. During your appointment at our office, your dentist will look for specific signs of gum disease. These symptoms include:
- Gums that bleed easily
- Persistent bad breath
- Chronic unpleasant taste in your mouth
- Gums that are starting to recede and pull away from the teeth
- A change in how your teeth fit together when you bite down
- A change in the way your dentures fit
- Teeth that are loose or shifting in your mouth
If you’re concerned about your gum health, our dentists can help. Contact us today for an appointment.
Can Gum Disease Be Prevented?
Although gum disease is very common, practicing a few simple healthy habits can greatly reduce your risk of developing the disease:
- Visit your dentist regularly: Your dental hygienist removes harmful plaque and tartar during a professional cleaning before they can accumulate on your teeth and gums. It’s also important for your dentist to examine your teeth and gums during a dental exam. This is an essential step in the early diagnosis and treatment of gum disease.
- Diligently brush and floss: You should brush your teeth at least twice a day, preferably after a meal. Flossing once a day removes plaque and food particles from your teeth that can’t be reached with a toothbrush.
- Rinse with mouthwash: After brushing, try to rinse your mouth with mouthwash to kill bacteria and eliminate any leftover food particles.
- Choose healthy foods: Reduce your consumption of foods high in sugar and starch, which promote plaque development and acid production. Choose vitamin-rich foods, especially those high in calcium and vitamins A and C.
You don’t have to suffer from gum disease. With proper dental care and regular visits to our office, our dentists can help keep your smile healthy.