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Causes of Bleeding Gums and Gum Disease

Gum Disease Basics

Gum disease, aka periodontal disease, is an infection of the gums. It can start out at the gumline as gingivitis and then progress to periodontitis, where the infection travels underneath the gums. Learning the signs of gingivitis can help yo
u avoid periodontitis, a more destructive form of gum disease that damages the tissues, ligaments and bone that hold teeth in place. While gingivitis does not always turn into periodontitis, periodontitis is a progressive disease that causes more and more damage if left untreated. Eventually, without treatment, a person’s teeth will become so loose that they either have to have a dentist pull them or they fall out on their own.

Why Are Gums Important?

Oral health is not only about having straight, white teeth. Your gums are just as important, since they support those pearly whites. When you admire your smile in a mirror, don’t forget to check your gums too. Gums are the foundation of your smile. Like the foundation of a house protects support beams, gums act as a seal to protect the bones and ligaments holding teeth firmly in place so they function well, letting you chew your food and speak clearly.

Interesting Facts About Periodontal Disease

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 47.2 percent of the adults in the US who are 30 or older have periodontal disease. More than 70 percent of Americans over age 70also have some form of gum disease. Young children rarely develop periodontal disease, but it is occasionally found in teenagers, over 65 percent of those aged 15 and older to be exact. The CDC says gum disease and tooth decay are the two biggest dental health threats facing Americans today. Making it vital that more information is available about this detrimental disease.

Gum disease is more prevalent in men than women. The American Academy of Periodontology says men with gum disease have a 14 percent greater risk of developing cancer than men without gum disease.

Periodontal disease isn’t technically contagious, but the bacteria in saliva can spread through saliva. Avoid sharing toothbrushes or utensils with anyone who has gum disease. It also goes without saying that you should avoid kissing anyone on the mouth who shows signs of gum disease. But, most importantly, you should try to focus on good oral hygiene and sharing your knowledge with those around you as well. The best teacher is the one that teaches by modeling proper behavior.

Gum Disease’s Overall Health Impact

The bacteria from gum disease can enter the bloodstream and cause arterial plaque. Therefore, untreated severe periodontal disease can create an increased risk for certain diseases, such as heart disease, strokes, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes. Severe gum disease also increases a person’s chance of developing inflammatory conditions, such as kidney disease.

What Causes Gum Disease?

  • Plaque buildup and tartar from poor oral hygiene causes periodontal disease because the plaque contains bacteria. Other factors influence your likelihood of developing gum disease, including:
  • Hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy and menopause
  • Poor nutrition, which makes it harder for a person’s body to fight off an infection
  • Smoking, tobacco use is one of the most significant risk factors.
  • Certain illnesses which affect the body’s inflammatory system, such as rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes
  • Certain medications, including antidepressants and oral contraceptives
  • Stress, which can make it more difficult for a person’s body to fight an infections
  • A family history of gum disease

What Are the Signs of Periodontal Disease?

If you know what symptoms to look for, you can catch gum disease in its first stage, when it’s reversible. Signs of gum disease include:

  • Bright red gums
  • Swollen, puffy gums
  • Bleeding gums when you brush
  • Tender gums
  • Bad taste in your mouth
  • Spaces between teeth and gums
  • Changes in your bite
  • Loose teeth

Types of Gum Disease

Gingivitis is a stage of periodontal disease, but it is not a form of periodontitis. Periodontitis is a much more advanced stage of gum disease that causes irreversible damage to the gums, teeth and jawbone.

Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease and it is the only one that is curable. Seeing a dentist at the first sign of swollen gums or bleeding when you brush your teeth can help you stop gum disease in its tracks. Everyone who develops periodontitis started out with gingivitis, although gingivitis does not always progress to a more destructive form of gum disease.

While there are seven classifications of periodontitis that you can develop, these three are the most common. Your chances of developing one or the other depend on your genetics, lifestyle and risk factors.

  • Chronic Periodontitis – is the most common form of periodontitis. Chronic periodontitis is a progressive, usually painless disease, which is manageable with treatment. Without treatment, tooth loss and teeth mobility occurs. The support structures of teeth will slowly deteriorate, although there can be periods of rapid progression. According to a National Center for Biotechnology Information article, about 35 percent of US adults age 30 and have at least one tooth affected by chronic periodontitis.
  • Aggressive Periodontitis – Aggressive periodontitis progresses rapidly, three to four times faster than chronic periodontitis. It usually develops at an earlier age than other forms of periodontitis, often before age 30. There are non-surgical and surgical treatments available to save as many teeth as possible. Typical non-surgical treatments include scaling and root planing and antibiotic therapy.
  • Necrotizing Periodontitis – Necrotizing periodontal disease is characterized by irreversible attachment loss. The disease comes on suddenly, causing gum and ligament destruction. It’s commonly seen in people with malnutrition and other immunosuppressive diseases.

Keep Your Gums Healthy and Prevent Gum Disease

You can prevent gum disease from developing by:

  • Brushing twice a day for two minutes with an ADA-approved toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Flossing every day
  • Eating a diet low in sugar and starch
  • Having a dental exam and professional cleaning every six months
    Quitting tobacco

Keep up with your regular dental exams, because some people don’t have any symptoms, but still have gum disease. Gum disease is rarely painful in its early stages, but now is the time to act if you have it. Call our affordable dentist in Rockefeller Plaza for an appointment if you notice any signs or symptoms of gum disease.

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Richard L. Rausch, DDS

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(646) 863-8184

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