Did you know that over half of Americans over the age of 30 have bleeding gums? Many have come to expect bleeding gums as a regular part of life, but if your scalp bled every time you washed your hair, you would probably want to get it checked.
The truth is, bleeding gums are not normal; they are often a result of something called periodontal disease.
In this blog post, we’ll explain what periodontal disease is, identify the signs and symptoms, and introduce some treatments.
What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal combines the greek words “perio,” which means “around” and “dontal,” which means “teeth.” Periodontal disease, then, refers to infections around your teeth, including your gums, jawbone, or nearby ligaments.
Periodontal disease is caused by the bacteria in dental plaque. Plaque constantly forms on your teeth and can form even faster when you eat or drink things with sugar. When too much bacteria is present, your body’s immune system kicks in and releases substances that cause inflammation. In an effort to kill the bacteria, your immune system also begins to destroy your gums and the rest of the area around your teeth.
While inflammation of the gums might just seem like a mild inconvenience, it could be covering something more sinister. If plaque bacteria gets under the gums, it will become impossible to reach with a toothbrush and you won’t be able to remove it. The plaque can then form pockets and start causing serious decay problems.
For instance, the bacteria can begin to attack the periodontal ligament and the part of your jaw that supports your teeth, called the alveolar bone. Once these areas start to decay, your teeth can become loose and even fall out.
What are the Top Signs of Periodontal Disease?
There are several signs and symptoms of periodontal disease. Different symptoms will appear at different stages of the disease, and catching it early can make treatment easier and prevent permanent damage.
If your gums bleed when you brush your teeth or floss, a likely cause is gingivitis. Gingivitis is the earliest stage of periodontal disease. You don’t want to let bleeding gums become normal, because the longer periodontal disease festers, the greater the damage can be.
Typically, gums that bleed are also swollen, red, and tender to touch. When they become swollen, they’re able to trap plaque and bacteria, causing the problem to get worse.
Persistent Bad Breath:
If you’re finding you constantly have bad breath, then periodontal disease could be the cause. When the bacteria gets trapped inside your gums, the smell gets trapped inside your mouth. A related symptom is when you often have a bad taste in your mouth.
The disease can cause the gums to recede, exposing sensitive areas of the tooth. When this happens, your teeth will become more sensitive to temperature, pressure, and pain. There are many causes of tooth sensitivity, which is why it is important to have a dentist check on it.
Pockets Between Teeth and Gums:
As bacteria causes damage to the gums and your immune system fights the infection, pockets of space can form between your teeth and gums. These can sometimes be filled with pus, plaque, tartar, or air. Although you won’t always be able to recognize this, a dentist will notice it immediately when doing periodontal probing.
As pockets and space grow between your teeth and gums, you can guess what happens to your teeth. Without the gums holding them tightly, they become loose. While you may not have recognized the pockets, you will definitely notice loose teeth. It’s easy to see or feel the loose tooth and it can often be painful while you eat.
How is Periodontal Disease Treated?
Because there are varying degrees of periodontal disease, treatment will be different for each patient. Your dentist will need to assess your case and provide a treatment plan. Below, we’ve described some of the different treatments.
The best treatment is preventative. Before periodontal disease begins, and even in the early stages, brushing and flossing will help keep your mouth healthy. Removing the plaque and the bacteria will ease the inflammation and lead to healthier gums. Flossing, in particular, can remove the plaque and the bacteria in difficult-to-reach areas between your gums and teeth. The ADA recommends you floss firmly enough to remove food and plaque, but not so hard that you cause yourself pain.
We also recommend changing some of your behaviors that might be contributing to periodontal disease, such as smoking. Cutting back on sugary foods that fuel the bacteria in plaque is another change you might need to make.
Another important step is called scaling and root planing. This job is done by your dentist. We will remove the plaque and tartar that has built up in and around your gums and the roots of your teeth. It might require local anesthetic, but is rarely painful for our patients. After a few weeks, we will check on your teeth again to see how the gums are healing.
If your teeth are secure, then you’ve returned to periodontal health! If your teeth are still loose, however, we’ll need to explore other options to make them secure and adjust your bite. This might include shaping your teeth or, in rare cases, orthodontic work.
When periodontal disease gets really bad, we sometimes recommend patients for surgery. There are a wide variety of surgical procedures that might be required. These might include removing the tartar, repairing and regenerating tissue, and replacing damaged teeth with implants.
The bottom line is, the earlier periodontal disease is recognized, the quicker and easier the treatment will be. If you are experiencing any of the signs or symptoms described in this article, and brushing or flossing is not making a difference, then schedule an appointment to see us as soon as possible.
We can check your gums to see what’s causing them to bleed or get swollen, and we can identify a treatment plan that will improve your smile. If you live in or near the Johns Creek, GA area, then contact us today to schedule an appointment to ensure your gums stay healthy and you continue to enjoy your smile.