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Causes of Bleeding Gums and Gum Disease

What Is the Definition of Gum Disease?

Gum disease is known clinically as periodontal disease. The word periodontal literally means around the teeth. Gum disease is an infection of the tissues, ligaments and bone that hold teeth in place. While curable in its earliest stage, without treatment, gum disease can cause eventual tooth loss. The disease is quite common; it is the primary reason adults lose their teeth.

Understanding Your Gums and How Gum Disease Impacts Your Health?

When your gums are healthy, they fit tightly around your teeth. They protect the ligaments and bone that hold your teeth in place. When you get periodontitis, pockets form between the teeth and gums. These pockets allow bacteria to get underneath the gums, where it can attack the support structures holding teeth in place. Teeth can become loose or migrate, and the bacteria can spread throughout the mouth and the rest of the body.

Unfortunately, gum disease is a very common problem and over 75 percent of adults have the condition. Even more damaging is that only 15 percent of those people actually know they have the disease! This makes it all the more important for you to learn everything you can about gum disease in order to ensure it doesn’t negatively impact your health. You don’t want to spend more money and endure more pain for something that is completely preventable.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate almost half of adults in the US have periodontitis. When you count people with gingivitis, the number of people with gum disease is even higher. Age plays a role; more than 70 percent of seniors have periodontitis. Men also get gum disease more frequently than women do.

Having healthy gums lowers your risk for the following serious health conditions, including:

  • Heart disease and strokes
  • Diabetes
  • Certain cancers, especially those affecting males
  • Chronic respiratory diseases
  • Premature babies
  • Low birth weight babies
  • Dementia

How Does Periodontal Disease Start?

Periodontal disease starts with an accumulation of plaque and tartar (hardened plaque) that irritates gums. When only the outside of the gums is inflamed, this is gingivitis. If gingivitis is left untreated, it can turn into a more serious form of gum disease called periodontitis.

Some individuals find it more difficult to fight off gum disease, including:

  • Smokers
  • People with crooked teeth who find it difficult to keep them clean
  • Individuals with a family history of gum disease
  • People with certain illnesses or on certain medications
  • People under chronic stress
  • Women with fluctuating hormones

What Symptoms Do People with Gum Disease Have?

Gum disease can be a very silent disease, meaning it doesn’t always present the symptoms you would expect. This is also why only about 15 percent of people ever know they have it. For this reason, regular trips to the dentist are very important so they can help you spot problems before they escalate.

For those that do have symptoms, typical symptoms include:

  • Red, swollen gums
  • Tender, puffy gums
  • Gum that bleed when you brush or eat hard foods
  • Receding gums or teeth that appear longer
  • Persistent bad breath
  • A change in your bite
  • Loose teeth
  • Separating teeth

If you have any of these symptoms, please see a dentist for an accurate diagnosis so treatment can begin right away.

What Gum Disease Normally Looks Like and All About Periodontitis

To start, gingivitis is the earliest, mildest form of gum disease. If you have it, your gums will be red, swollen and they will most likely bleed slightly when you brush or floss. You won’t feel any pain with gingivitis. The disease is usually the result of inadequate oral hygiene. Fortunately, gingivitis is reversible with a dental teeth cleaning and improved oral home care.

When you don’t catch it in time, gingivitis will progress into periodontitis. During this stage the gums start to pull away from the teeth, creating pockets where bacteria and debris hide. This creates a bacteria and plaque-ridden environment, causing the gum to pull even further from the teeth. At this point, constant inflammation and swelling are occurring and the ligaments and the bone will start to deteriorate from the constant onslaught of plague and bacteria. Your teeth will either fall out or need to be removed by a dentist to preserve what bone you have left.

There are a few different types of periodontitis that you can develop, it depends on your risk factors and lifestyle.

  • Chronic Periodontitis – People get chronic periodontitis after having untreated gingivitis. Its characterized by periodontal pockets that form between the teeth and gums, alveolar bone loss and teeth becoming loose. Treatment for chronic periodontitis includes a scaling and root planing procedure, also known as a deep dental cleaning, and antibiotic therapy. Patients have to practice correct brushing and flossing at home to help fight the infection. People who smoke and don’t quit will find treatment less effective.
  • Aggressive Periodontitis – Aggressive periodontitis is a somewhat rare form of the disease that has rapid ligament and bone deterioration. It has an early onset, occurs in otherwise healthy patients, and there is a strong genetic influence. Treatment includes antibiotic therapy, deep dental cleanings and improved oral hygiene. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary.
  • Necrotizing Periodontitis – Necrotizing periodontitis is the death of the tissue that attaches the teeth. It often comes on suddenly and occurs most often with younger HIV-positive or immunocompromised patients. Symptoms include severe pain and a foul taste in the mouth.

How Can I Keep My Gums Healthy?

Luckily, gum disease is largely preventable. You can reduce your risk by practicing a few simple activities:
Brush after every meal or at least twice a day. You’ll want to use an ADA-approved toothbrush and toothpaste for added protection.
Floss at least once daily. This is incredibly important and often neglected.
Use a mouthwash after brushing to further remove bacteria and debris.
Quit using tobacco.

Also, visit a dentist in Yonkers for regular checkups and teeth cleanings. Taking care of your gums is just as important as taking care of your teeth if you want to keep your natural teeth for as long as possible.

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