Lately we have been seeing more and more patients come in complaining of bleeding gums. Often people have been putting up with it for awhile, and it is only when other symptoms arise in combination with the bleeding do they get concerned enough to come in!
Why are bleeding gums a serious issue to take note of? It is because consistently bleeding gums not caused by trauma can be a sign of Gingivitis or worse, Periodontal Disease. Lack of bleeding is one of the key indicators of gum health!
What are the differences between Gingivitis and Periodontitis?
- Recognized by red, swollen gums that can bleed when brushing teeth or even when eating.
- The gums are inflamed by the plaque and calculus that is sitting on the teeth mostly around the gum line and in between the teeth.
- This plaque and calculus harbours harmful bacteria which the body recognises as an infection and therefore sets off an inflammatory response in the gums.
- In most cases, Gingivitis is treatable and reversible.
Key Prevention: See your dentist regularly for professional cleaning, and maintain a good home care routine of twice-daily brushing and daily-flossing.
Professional Tip: If your gums bleed when flossing, it means you need to keep flossing! Don't be scared and stop, it will only make things worse! See your Dentist!
Periodontitis (Gum Disease)
Mild to Moderate Periodontitis:
- If gingivitis is left untreated, the gums become diseased and pull away from the teeth.
- Increased bacteria under the gums begins to cause irreversible bone loss as the bone is progressively 'eaten-away' by the inflammatory response in the gums.
- The soft plaque and bacteria in the mouth harden to form calculus under and above the gum line that cannot be cleaned off with a toothbrush.
- This calculus traps more bacteria under the gums, causing the gums to loosen and shrink away from the teeth creating 'pockets' that develop between the gum and tooth.
- These pockets then continue to trap food and bacteria in a snowball effect, making it an increasingly toxic environment.
- Periodontitis can have a component of genetic susceptibility, so if family members or relatives have a history of gum disease, there is a chance you are at risk too.
- As more bone support is lost, the teeth can eventually become loose. In extreme cases a tooth can either come out while eating or become too painful to chew on resulting in an abcess of dental emergency.
- Although the damage done to the bone from periodontal disease cannot be reversed, further damage can be prevented.
- A simple scale and clean will not be sufficient in the treatment of periodontal disease. The gums and roots of the teeth will require specialised deep cleaning to remove all the plaque and calculus trapped under the gums. Thankfully this is all done while you are numb.
Afterwards, a meticulous home care routine is a must, along with regular professional maintenance. The goal is to get back to regular 6-monthly check ups and cleaning. However, in extreme cases or if the condition does not respond to treatment, a referral to a Periodontal specialist may be required.
Key Treatment: See your dentist or periodontal specialist for professional gum disease treatment. Maintain a good home care routine of twice-daily brushing, daily-flossing and any further instructions from your doctor.
In summary, what causes gum disease?
The main cause of periodontal disease is plaque and calculus. As already mentioned, some people may be genetically predisposed to gum disease. Despite this, it can still be prevented through proper brushing, flossing and regular professional maintenance.
Some other factors that can affect the health of your gums include:
Smoking is a major factor in gum disease. While smoking doesn't directly cause Gingivitis or Periodontitis, it can make the existing problems worse. The use of cigarettes impairs the body’s ability to heal and fight off infection. People who smoke are twice as likely to have gum disease compared with non-smokers.
Stress is also linked to many serious health conditions. Research shows that stress affects the body’s ability to fight of infections, including periodontal disease.
Systemic diseases that interfere with the body’s inflammatory system are beginning to show increasing links with gum disease. For example, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis are closely linked to bacterial and inflammatory processes in the body.
A diet low in key nutrients can also compromise the body’s immune system and make it harder for the body to fight off infection.
What to watch out for:
- Bleeding gums;
- Bad breath;
- Sore gums;
- Noticeable Gum Recession;
- Loose teeth.
Here at Gateway Dental Health we are strong believers that education and prevention is better than the cure. Regular six-monthly professional care is the ideal way to monitor the health of your gums!
Thanks for reading and we hope this helps. Take care and hope to see you soon!
Dr. Chee & The Team at Gateway Dental Health