Have you ever noticed blood in the sink after brushing your teeth? Bleeding gums are the most common indicator of a very common dental condition called periodontal disease, better known as gum disease.
Experts estimate that around 64.7 million Americans have periodontitis, which is the most advanced form of periodontal disease. The consequences of periodontal disease can be severe for your smile and your general health. Here’s what you need to know about the causes of gum disease and how you can prevent it.
What Is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is a bacterial infection that affects the gums and other tooth-supporting structures. It occurs when plaque that forms on our teeth when we eat and drink spreads onto the gums. This plaque contains bacteria that are naturally found in the mouth. The bacteria releases acids that irritate the gums causing a range of unpleasant symptoms that include inflammation and bleeding. Left untreated, gum disease can lead to jawbone deterioration, tooth loss and even contribute to health problems like diabetes and heart disease.
Bleeding Gums and Other Symptoms of Periodontal Disease
Bleeding gums may be one of the most common symptoms of gum disease. However, it isn’t the only one.
The Initial Stage of Gum Disease
Gum disease is a progressive condition that develops fairly slowly. Identifying gum disease at the earliest stages gives you the best opportunity to prevent it from worsening and damaging your oral and general health. The earliest stage of gum disease is often called gingivitis. Symptoms of gingivitis include:
- Red or swollen gums
- Gums that feel painful
- Bleeding gums when you brush your teeth or eat anything hard
Gingivitis can usually be treated with a professional deep dental cleaning and improving the way that you brush and floss your teeth. Since the symptoms are so mild, it can be easy to ignore or overlook early-stage gum disease. However, if gum disease isn’t treated promptly, it can quickly get much worse.
The Advanced Stage of Gum Disease
The symptoms of advanced periodontal disease are much more severe. They include:
- Gum recession (pulling away from the teeth)
- Severely bad breath
- Root infection
- Bone deterioration within the jaw
- Loose teeth or teeth that fall out of their own accord
The Effect of Gum Disease on Your General Health
Gum disease isn’t only bad news for your dental health. Many studies have found a direct link between advanced periodontal disease and other chronic health problems including cardiovascular disease, stroke, pneumonia and more. Similarly, pregnant women with periodontitis are at greater risk of delivering their babies prematurely or birthing underweight infants. Preventing gum disease should be a priority for anyone who wants to enjoy good general health.
Am I at Risk of Getting Gum Disease?
Although anyone can develop gum disease, there are some factors that make someone more likely to develop the condition. For example, research shows that smokers are more than twice as likely to get gum disease than non-smokers. Diabetes is also linked to gum disease with around 95% of diabetics experiencing some form of the condition during their lifetimes. A family history of the disease, taking medications that cause a dry mouth, stress and hormonal fluctuations can also increase your risk of experiencing gum disease.
Treating Gum Disease
If you already have bleeding gums and you are still in the early stages of periodontal disease, there are things that you can do to stop your symptoms from getting any worse and to get your gum health under control. Many of these are simple enough to take care of at home such as improving the way that you brush and floss your teeth, giving up smoking, chewing gum between meals and drinking plenty of water. In fact, brushing and flossing your teeth as per the recommendations given by the ADA is the best way to protect your mouth against gum disease.
Regular visits to your dentist are invaluable for spotting dental issues early — including gum disease. By monitoring the condition of your teeth and mouth, your dentist will be able to advise you if you are developing gum disease and support you in taking steps to treat it. You’ll probably see a periodontist who can perform a deep cleaning and other gum treatments.
If you are concerned about bleeding gums or if you have any other questions about periodontal disease, schedule an appointment at West Coast Dental today.
American Dental Association – Gum Disease – Periodontal Disease – From MouthHealthy.org
American Academy of Periodontology – Periodontal Disease Fact Sheet
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Smoking, Gum Disease, and Tooth Loss | Overviews of Diseases/Conditions | Tips From Former Smokers
American Dental Association – Healthy mouth, healthy body
West Coast Dental – Improve unhealthy gums with West Coast Dental
American Dental Association – Brush Teeth – American Dental Association
West Coast Dental – Periodontal Dentistry