My Gums Bleed – Is that a problem?
Do your gums bleed when brushing your teeth? Do they appear inflamed or swollen? While it is often thought that bleeding gums merely means that you have been a little over zealous in your brushing, this may not be the case. More times than not it is a sign that a problem has begun.
Gingivitis, a common condition, is an inflammation of the gum tissue around the tooth. What causes it? Typically it is caused by a buildup of plaque that has hardened. Whenever we eat, our salvia, which contains bacteria, combines with our food and creates a sticky substance on the surface of our teeth – called plaque. When plaque is not removed with routine brushing and flossing it becomes a mineralized material, called calculus, which irritates the gum tissue and is most often the reason we see bleeding and inflammation. Once this hardened material exists, it can only be removed by a dental healthcare professional. Others may see a change in the spacing between their teeth while some do not notice the early symptoms and seek care until the disease process has advanced.
Left untreated, gingivitis can develop into a more serious problem called Periodontitis or Periodontal Disease. Once the gum tissue is no longer healthy, the infection can go beneath the gum line into the bone. At that time, the bone, which is the support structure for our teeth, can recede and open pockets around the tooth. You may have heard or seen your hygienist, Dr. Hochberg, or Dr. Diora recording your ‘pocket depth’. This is what he or she is measuring to be sure that the bone has not moved away from the tooth allowing space for food, plaque or debris to accumulate. While 1mm – 3mm is typically a healthy reading, once the depth is 4mm – 5mm or beyond, not only is the tooth more susceptible to decay, there is also a greater risk that the bone, which has receded away from the tooth, can no longer hold the tooth in place. When this occurs the tooth becomes mobile, which often results in the need for the tooth to be removed.
There are other conditions and circumstances that contribute to gingivitis, and down the road to periodontitis, such as:
- Smoking and chewing tobacco
- Alcohol use
- Cancer and cancer treatments
- Hormonal changes
- Dry mouth
- Poor nutrition
- Crooked and crowded teeth
However, the good news is that gum disease can often be prevented or mitigated with a good home healthcare regime and regular dental visits. This is especially true when intervention occurs early in the disease process before it becomes chronic. Stopping gingivitis from developing into a more serious condition by:
- Regular removal of plaque and calculus by a dental healthcare professional
- Teaming with your dental hygienist to develop an individualized home healthcare regime
- Periodic x-rays – They not only detect cavities and screen for oral cancer but also allow us to detect whether there is evidence of bone loss or decreased bone volumes
So, whether you’ve noticed a little bleeding when you brush or all appears to you to be doing well, it’s always best to let the professionals in our office ensure that you stay on the road of good health.
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