Posts for tag: gum disease
Are bleeding gums something you should be concerned about? Dear Doctor magazine recently posed that question to Dr. Travis Stork, an emergency room physician and host of the syndicated TV show The Doctors. He answered with two questions of his own: “If you started bleeding from your eyeball, would you seek medical attention?” Needless to say, most everyone would. “So,” he asked, “why is it that when we bleed all the time when we floss that we think it’s no big deal?” As it turns out, that’s an excellent question — and one that’s often misunderstood.
First of all, let’s clarify what we mean by “bleeding all the time.” As many as 90 percent of people occasionally experience bleeding gums when they clean their teeth — particularly if they don’t do it often, or are just starting a flossing routine. But if your gums bleed regularly when you brush or floss, it almost certainly means there’s a problem. Many think bleeding gums is a sign they are brushing too hard; this is possible, but unlikely. It’s much more probable that irritated and bleeding gums are a sign of periodontal (gum) disease.
How common is this malady? According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, nearly half of allÂ Americans over age 30 have mild, moderate or severe gum disease — and that number increases to 70.1 percent for those over 65! Periodontal disease can occur when a bacteria-rich biofilm in the mouth (also called plaque) is allowed to build up on tooth and gum surfaces. Plaque causes the gums to become inflamed, as the immune system responds to the bacteria. Eventually, this can cause gum tissue to pull away from the teeth, forming bacteria-filled “pockets” under the gum surface. If left untreated, it can lead to more serious infection, and even tooth loss.
What should you do if your gums bleed regularly when brushing or flossing? The first step is to come in for a thorough examination. In combination with a regular oral exam (and possibly x-rays or other diagnostic tests), a simple (and painless) instrument called a periodontal probe can be used to determine how far any periodontal disease may have progressed. Armed with this information, we can determine the most effective way to fight the battle against gum disease.
Above all, don’t wait too long to come in for an exam! As Dr. Stork notes, bleeding gums are “a sign that things aren’t quite right.” Â If you would like more information about bleeding gums, please contact us or schedule an appointment. You can read more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Bleeding Gums.” You can read the entire interview with Dr. Travis Stork in Dear Doctor magazine.
Periodontal (gum) disease is mainly caused by bacterial plaque built up on tooth surfaces due to ineffective oral hygiene. For most cases, treatment that includes plaque and calculus (tartar or calcified plaque) removal and renewed daily hygiene is highly effective in stopping the disease and restoring health to affected gum tissues.
However, you might have additional health factors that may make it more difficult to bring the disease under control. If your case is extreme, even the most in-depth treatment may only buy time before some or all of your teeth are eventually lost.
Genetics. Because of your genetic makeup, you could have a low resistance to gum disease and are more susceptible to it than other people. Additionally, if you have thin gum tissues, also an inherited trait, you could be more prone to receding gums as a result of gum disease.
Certain bacteria. Our mouths are home to millions of bacteria derived from hundreds of strains, of which only a few are responsible for gum disease. It’s possible your body’s immune system may find it difficult to control a particular disease-causing strain, regardless of your diligence in oral care.
Stress. Chronic stress, brought on by difficult life situations or experiences, can have a harmful effect on your body’s immune system and cause you to be more susceptible to gum disease. Studies have shown that as stress levels increase the breakdown of gum tissues (along with their detachment from teeth) may also increase.
Disease advancement. Gum disease can be an aggressive infection that can gain a foothold well before diagnosis. It’s possible, then, that by the time we begin intervention the disease has already caused a great deal of damage. While we may be able to repair much of it, it’s possible some teeth may not be salvageable.
While you can’t change genetic makeup or bacterial sensitivity, you can slow the disease progression and extend the life of your teeth with consistent daily hygiene, regular cleanings and checkups, and watching for bleeding, swollen gums and other signs of disease. Although these additional risk factors may make it difficult to save your teeth in the long-run, you may be able to gain enough time to prepare emotionally and financially for dental implants or a similar restoration.
If you would like more information on the treatment of gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Periodontal (Gum) Treatment & Expectations.”
Research has shown that periodontal (gum) disease can affect the health of your whole body. Evidence suggests a relationship between severe gum disease and cardiovascular disease (“cardio” – heart; “vascular” – blood vessel), conditions that lead to heart attacks and strokes. There is also a relationship between gum disease and pregnancy; mothers with severe gum disease have a higher incidence of pre-term delivery and low birth-weight babies. To understand gum disease, you may find the following facts helpful. How many are you aware of?
- Periodontal disease — Any disease that affects the areas around the teeth. The word comes from the Latin “peri” meaning around and Greek “odont” meaning tooth. Periodontal disease, or gum disease as it is commonly called, is really a group of diseases with the same outcome: destruction of the periodontal tissues, loss of supporting bone and ultimately the loss of your teeth.
- Dental plaque (Biofilms) — A bacterial film that forms on teeth at the gum line, and the reason we brush and floss. Its daily removal is necessary to keep your teeth and gums healthy. A biofilm is a biological film comprised of colonies of living organisms that are generally specific to a particular eco-system. Plaque is one type of biofilm.
- Gingivitis (“gingiva” – gum; “itis” – inflammation) — A response of the gum tissues to plaque biofilm that is left undisturbed (due to ineffective, or inadequate oral hygiene). It is the first stage of periodontal disease.
- Pocket formation — Just like a pocket on your clothing, pocket formation is the result of separation of the gum tissues from their normally healthy tight attachment to a tooth. Pocketing allows the introduction of bacteria, which perpetuate gum disease.
- Abscess — A collection of pus that forms within diseased periodontal tissues. It is experienced as pain, swelling, and discharge of pus from the gum tissues and is an advanced sign of periodontal disease.
Important Tip — Bleeding Gums when brushing teeth or flossing is not normal. It is a warning sign of early gum disease that you should bring to the attention of our office.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about periodontal disease. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Understanding Gum (Periodontal) Disease.”