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4210 Fairfax Corner Ave W, Ste 220, Fairfax, VA 22030

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Causes of Bleeding Gums and Gum Disease

The Basics of Gum Disease

Periodontal disease is also known as gum disease. The word “perio” means around, and the word “dontal” means teeth. Periodontal disease is an infection of one or more of the structures that support the teeth, including gum tissue, ligaments and the alveolar bone which holds the tooth sockets. In its earliest stage, just the gums are infected, but in more advanced stages, the bone deteriorates and teeth become loose. Since the disease can progress quickly, it’s best to stay informed about what causes this disease and how you can prevent it from occurring.

Why Healthy Gums Are Just as Important as Healthy Teeth

Healthy gums are important because they help hold your teeth in place. They fit around each tooth, offering protection for the ligaments and bone underneath. If you have gum disease, the gums can pull away from affected teeth, allowing plaque in. The plaque contains bacteria that can damage the ligaments and the bone and cause tooth loss. Gum disease is the primary reason adults lose teeth.

Nearly three-quarters of American adults have some form of gum disease. Many, around 15 percent, are aware they have the disease. With such a high prevalence of the disease and such a small number of people aware that they have gum disease, it’s vital to stay educated and practice a robust dental healthcare routine. Your dentist will be able to catch the disease even when you might not be aware that you have a problem. You’ll want to catch it while you have gingivitis, which is the first stage of gum disease.

There is a definite link between gum health and overall health. There is a link between the bacteria in gum disease and heart disease. Research has also established a link between gum disease and strokes, respiratory ailments and diabetes. It can certainly be scary to hear these kinds of statistics, but it’s best to understand how gum disease impacts other parts of your body by encouraging the spread of inflammation and bacteria. It’s never a good idea to ignore a problem you may be having with your teeth or gums.

Just because it’s a big problem in the United States doesn’t mean enough people are paying attention to their gums, especially because gum disease can be very silent when it first occurs. Make sure to keep regular appointments with your dentist if you want to avoid issues.

How Do People Get Gum Disease?

People get gum disease by having poor oral hygiene and not regularly practicing a good oral healthcare routine. Gum disease is caused by bacteria. Bacterial toxins live in plaque, which is not a problem if you remove the sticky film from near the gumline with proper brushing and flossing. If not removed with good oral hygiene habits and regular dental teeth cleanings, the bacteria will irritate the outsides of the gums, causing gingivitis.

Without treatment for this reversible form of gum disease, the bacteria can travel under the gums, causing damage to the structures that support your teeth and hold them firmly in place. Granted, some people have risk factors that make them more susceptible to infections, so they are more likely to develop gum disease than someone with equally inadequate oral hygiene.

Some risk factors include:

  • Tobacco use is one of the main risk factors in gum disease’s development and progression-
  • Genetics – over 30 percent of people with gum disease have a genetic predisposition to the disease.
  • Certain medications cause dry mouth and prevent bacteria from being washed away regularly.
  • Hormonal changes in women make the gums more sensitive.
  • Malnutrition leaves the body unable to fight off infections.
  • Chronic stress has a similar impact and produces different hormones that can affect the body’s ability to fight off infections.
  • Diabetes and other illnesses leave the body weakened and more susceptible to diseases.

What Are the Typical Signs of Periodontal Disease?

Dentists call gum disease a silent disease, meaning there are only a few mild symptoms and no pain until the disease is in an advanced stage.

Typical symptoms include;

  • Tender, swollen gums
  • Gums that are red, not pink
  • Gums that bleed when you brush your teeth
  • Receding gums where teeth appear longer
  • Persistent bad breath
  • A change in your bite
  • Dentures fit differently
  • Loose teeth
  • Pockets of pus visible between the teeth and gum

Types of Periodontal Disease

The most common types of gum disease include:

  • Gingivitis – Gingivitis is gum inflammation. It’s caused by plaque and tarter not regularly removed by at-home brushing and flossing and regular professional teeth cleanings. Gingivitis is treatable and it can be cured. A simple dental cleaning and a better dental hygiene routine is often the only treatment needed. The disease may progress to periodontitis without treatment and improved brushing and flossing techniques.
  • Chronic Periodontitis – Chronic periodontitis affects the alveolar bone that holds the tooth sockets and connective tissues. Pockets form between the teeth and gums, allowing destructive bacteria to reach these tooth-supporting structures. Chronic periodontitis has a slow progression, although it can progress more rapidly at times. Dental professionals can manage the disease and prevent it from progressing further. Typical treatments consist of deep dental cleanings and antibiotic therapy to control the infection.
  • Aggressive Periodontitis – Aggressive periodontitis is much less common than the chronic form. It generally affects younger individuals who are otherwise healthy. The disease can lead to tooth loss if it isn’t diagnosed early and treated. It is characterized by rapid damage to ligaments and bone destruction.
  • Necrotizing Periodontitis – With necrotizing periodontitis, there is often a rapid onset of gum tissue, ligament and bone necrosis. Patients will notice fetid breath and excruciating pain and possibly spontaneous bleeding. Necrotizing periodontitis typically begins before a patient turns 30. It’s most often seen in immunocompromised individuals and people who are extremely malnourished.

What Can I Do to Ensure My Gums Stay Healthy?

Keeping your gums healthy isn’t difficult. You should:

  1. Brush your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes at a time.
  2. Floss once a day.
  3. Use an anti-plaque mouthrinse.
  4. Eat a low-sugar diet and rinse your mouth with water after having sugary or sticky foods or drinks.
  5. If you are a tobacco user, quit.
  6. Schedule an exam and teeth cleaning twice a year with a dentist in Fairfax Corner.

These tips will also help you have healthy teeth and healthy teeth and gums equal an attractive smile.

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