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Causes of Bleeding Gums and Gum Disease

Understanding Gum Disease

You likely already know about the evils of tooth decay and cavities, but it may be that you’re not fully aware of how harmful gum disease can truly be. Clinically known as periodontal disease, this group of conditions that affects the gums can result in tooth loss and a number of potentially dangerous health issues. Learning all you can about the symptoms of gum disease is the best way to prevent serious problems from arising.

The Impact of Gum Disease on Your Health

Gingivitis—you hear the word, but what does it mean? How does gingivitis differ from periodontal disease? And, what do these conditions have to do with you? For starters, you need to be aware of them. Both are forms of gum disease that affect people of all ages—gum disease isn’t just for old people. Gum disease affects 75 percent of American adults, only 15 percent of whom are even aware of the condition; and at least 60 percent of teens aged 15 or older are afflicted with some form of gum disease. While most adults can take measures to prevent it, approximately 30 percent suffer from gum disease due to a genetic predisposition. Yet, even these cases can be carefully managed with basic dental care habits to prevent full development of gum disease. Your dental care routine is essential to preventing, treating, and reversing gum disease. You must know the signs and symptoms of gum disease and what steps you can take to protect your smile year after year.

Gingivitis is the early stage of periodontal disease caused by a buildup of bacteria in the tissues of the mouth. It literally means inflammation of the gums and is marked by red, swollen gums or gums that bleed easily while brushing. Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults, but it can be prevented with proper dental care.

What Causes Gum Disease?

The primary causes of gum disease are plaque and bacteria; however, certain age and lifestyle factors can impact the levels of plaque and bacteria in the mouth, making your dental care routine imperative to keeping your teeth firmly in place.

  • Hormonal changes. Researchers have found that the hormonal fluctuations that occur in women during pregnancy, puberty, menopause, and monthly menstruation can make gums more sensitive and easily lead to the development of gingivitis.
  • Illnesses. Sickness and disease can affect the condition of your gums. Cancer, HIV, and diabetes are a few examples, as these patients are at an increased risk of developing infections, including periodontal disease and cavities.
  • Medications. Certain prescription medications can affect oral health. Many of these medications can lead to dry mouth, a condition of impaired saliva production, which keeps bacteria from being consistently washed away from the teeth and gums. Anticonvulsants and anti-angina medications are just a few examples of drugs that impair saliva production.
  • Poor lifestyle habits. Tobacco use—chewing or smoking—make it difficult for gum tissue to repair itself and contributes to an increase in toxins that can lead to damage.
  • Dental care neglect. Failure to brush or floss on a daily basis makes it easy for bacteria to build up and cause inflammation and disease. If you skip routine dental visits, you’re also leaving your mouth susceptible to bacteria that can’t be removed by brushing alone.

What Are the Symptoms of Gum Disease?

Gum disease can progress silently, showing few markers of disease. But, if you know what to look for, you can catch the condition before it advances to an irreversible stage. Here’s what to watch for:

  • Bleeding gums during and after tooth brushing
  • Swollen, red, or tender gums
  • Chronic bad breath
  • Persistent foul taste in the mouth
  • Receding gum line
  • Noticeable formation of “pockets” between the teeth and gum line
  • Teeth that are loose or shift easily
  • Changes in your bite or the way your dentures fit

Critical Facts About Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is gingivitis that never gets treated. The inner layer of the gums and bone pull away from the teeth, forming pockets where debris collects and becomes infected. Over time, the buildup wears away the gum line and the teeth become unstable.

Plaque has the ability over time to spread beneath the gum line, and the toxins it produces cause irritation and inflammation. Chronic inflammation causes the bone and tissue beneath the teeth to degrade, and the teeth and gums separate from each other, destroying even more supporting tissue and bone. In time, the teeth may become loose and require removal. Periodontitis can also be a product of a systemic disease such as respiratory disease, a heart ailment, or diabetes.

There are several types of periodontitis and your risk of developing any one of them depends on several factors:

  • Chronic periodontitis is the most common type of periodontitis in adults and is characterized by the inflammation of supporting tissues and slow progression of loss of attachment.
  • Aggressive periodontitis typically occurs in generally healthy people and causes rapid destruction of bone and loss of attachment.
  • Necrotizing periodontitis is marked by the death of periodontal ligaments, gum tissue, and bone, and is most common in people with suppressed immune systems.

Tips for Preventing Gum Disease:

  • Eat a diet low in sugars and starches
  • Brush twice a day with ADA-approved toothpaste or, even better, after every meal. If you can’t brush after eating, at least rinse your mouth with water.
  • Rinse with a mouthwash after brushing. Swish thoroughly for at least 60 seconds.
  • Floss at least once a day, reaching all areas of your mouth.

Protect Yourself from Gum Disease

An absence of symptoms doesn’t mean you aren’t affected. Your mouth is home to hundreds of types of bacteria, and even after a professional dental cleaning, oral bacteria begin to reappear within 24 hours. Only your dentist can make an accurate diagnosis. Since gum disease can occur without any warning signs, routine visits to an affordable dentist in Western Massachusetts can ensure that you’ll be aware if you have the condition.

Some people are more susceptible to gum disease than others, making extra brushing or more frequent visits to the dentist necessary for keeping gums healthy.

Remember, proper dental care can mean the difference between an award-winning smile and a toothless grin.

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