Everything You Need to Know about Gum Disease
Bleeding gums are a relatively common problem. Nine out of ten adults notice blood on their gums occasionally while about 20% of them suffer from periodontal disease. Seeing blood on your gums can be disturbing. Thankfully, in many cases, it means mechanical damage inflicted by vigorous flossing or brushing. However, regular bleeding could also be a sign of gum disease. Let’s take a closer look at why gums bleed and what you can do about it.
Gingivitis is one of the most common reasons for bleeding gums. It’s a mild form of periodontal disease (also called gum disease). Gingivitis causes redness, swelling, and irritation of the gums around the base of your teeth. In addition to easy bleeding during the brushing or flossing process, gingivitis comes with the following symptoms:
- Inflamed (swollen) and tender gums
- Dark red gums (healthy gums are pale pink)
- Bad breath
- Receding gums
The leading cause of gingivitis is poor oral hygiene. If you don’t brush your teeth properly or arrange regular dental cleanings, plaque starts forming on your teeth. With time, plaque hardens under the gumline and turns into tartar.
Tartar provides an excellent environment for bacteria growth since the hard shell makes it tough for you to remove contamination with a brush. You would need professional dental cleaning to get rid of tartar.
With time, tartar and plaque irritate the gum around the base of your teeth and cause inflammation. This in turn leads to easy bleeding and tooth decay. If not treated, gingivitis may turn into periodontitis.
Why Do Gums Bleed?
Gums can bleed for a variety of reasons. The common causes are:
- Poor brushing or flossing technique
No matter how often you notice blood on your gums, this issue warrants your close attention. If you are using hard-bristled brushes or brush and floss too vigorously, you could injure gums and cause them to bleed.
People tend to brush and floss aggressively, thinking that the harder they brush, the more dirt they can remove from their teeth. In reality, such passion may lead to bleeding, wear the tooth enamel away and cause gum recession. That’s why the first thing to do when you notice blood on your gums is to rethink your brushing and flossing techniques.
What dental conditions can cause the gums to bleed?
Periodontitis (gum disease) is a severe gum infection. If untreated, it can damage your gums and destroy the bone, which supports your teeth. Periodontitis can lead to tooth loss. Besides bleeding, symptoms of gum disease include:
- Bright red, swollen, and tender gums
- Bad breath
- Pus between teeth and gums
- Loose teeth
- Pain when biting and chewing
- Receding gums
The leading cause of periodontitis is untreated gingivitis. If the inflammation is left untreated, pockets start developing between gums and teeth. With time, they fill up with plaque, tartar, and bacteria. As pockets deepen, the infection reaches the bone, eventually leading to tooth loss.
Even before tooth loss occurs, such severe ongoing inflammation in the body could cause other health issues. Research links periodontitis to diabetes, asthma, heart and kidney problems, osteoporosis, and even cancer.
Prevention and early detection are key to dealing with periodontitis. Proper oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups can help prevent serious consequences.
Gum Disease Risk Factors
Besides poor oral hygiene, risk factors for gum disease and bleeding include:
- Age — the older you are, the higher the chances of developing gum disease.
- Stress — stress makes it harder for the body to battle infection, thus making it easier for gingivitis to turn into periodontitis.
- Medications — antidepressants, blood-thinners, oral contraceptives, and several other medications can increase the chances of developing gum diseases and bleeding issues.
- Genetics — some people are genetically susceptible to gum problems. If your parents or siblings experience gum bleeding, you may want to pay closer attention to your oral health.
- Chronic diseases — some chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or rheumatoid arthritis can cause gum disease by affecting the body’s immune system.
- Obesity — some studies show a link between obesity and periodontal disease. Obese people could be more susceptible to gum disease and gum bleeding.
If you are in a risk group, let your dentist know about it.
During pregnancy, the level of progesterone rises. It causes the blood flow to the gum tissue to increase, making your gums sensitive and swollen. As a result, they can bleed when you brush or floss.
The hormonal changes and the stress the body undergoes during pregnancy make it easier for some bacteria to grow around your teeth, increasing gum tenderness.
Pregnancy gingivitis can occur between the second and eighth month of pregnancy. It’s often severe during the second trimester.
Is Gingivitis Common in Pregnancy?
About 60% – 75% of women experience pregnancy gingivitis. It’s imperative to pay special attention to your oral health during pregnancy. Managing pregnancy gingivitis can help prevent periodontitis, which may have serious consequences.
Does Pregnancy Gingivitis Go Away?
Once you give birth and progesterone levels return to normal, gingivitis is likely to disappear. However, it’s still important to continue paying close attention to your oral health.
Can Pregnancy Gingivitis Harm the Baby?
While mild gingivitis is unlikely to harm the baby, periodontitis may. Research shows that bacteria, which causes gum inflammation can enter the bloodstream and reach the fetus. This could lead to premature birth and low-birth-weight babies.
It’s imperative to maintain top-notch oral hygiene during pregnancy to stop gingivitis from turning into periodontitis.
What Diseases Could Cause Gums to Bleed?
Besides gingivitis and periodontitis, your gums would bleed if you suffer from:
- Any tooth or gum infection
- Factor V deficiency, haemophilia, and thrombocytopenia (disorders that affect blood clotting)
- Hormonal changes during pregnancy
- Gum cancer
Gums don’t bleed without a reason. There is always an underlying problem. Figuring out what it is can help you minimize bleeding and eliminate the accompanying discomfort.
Can Vitamin Deficiency Cause Bleeding Gums?
Vitamin K and vitamin C deficiency can cause bleeding gums. If you take good care of your teeth but still notice bleeding, consider checking your vitamin levels. If there is a deficiency, you would need to adjust your diet and possibly take some supplements.
Gums can also bleed easily if you are taking blood-thinners. In this case, you need to be especially careful not to put pressure on your gums while brushing or flossing.
What are the Treatment Options for Bleeding Gums?
The best way to prevent and treat gum disease-related bleeding is to practise good oral hygiene.
It involves regular brushing, flossing, visiting your dentist, and not delaying treatments. Another highly important preventive measure is quitting smoking. Smokers are at high risk of developing severe gum disease.
Common bleeding gum treatment options include:
1. Adjusting Brushing and Flossing Habits
If you are a fan of vigorous brushing and flossing, you could experience bleeding even if you don’t have any other health issues. Your dentist can help you choose the right brush and teach you how to apply proper pressure to your teeth and gums. Harder isn’t always better. The technique counts.
You should also replace brushes regularly. Dirty brushes could be contributing to the bacteria growth around your teeth and gums.
2. Professional Dental Cleaning
Professional tooth cleaning involves removing plaque and tartar that builds around your teeth. This prevents bacteria from forming and causing such serious issues as periodontitis. Read more about dental check-up and clean appointment here.
In severe cases, your dentist may suggest a deep cleaning. It involves removing plaque and tartar above and below the gumline. Then the dentist smooths out teeth roots to help gum tissue move closer to your teeth. It’s called root planing or debridement.
3. Vitamin Replenishment
If the underlying cause of your gum bleeding is vitamin C or K deficiency, the doctor will recommend a change in diet. You would need to increase the consumption of vitamin-rich foods and consider taking supplements.
4. Cold Compresses
When your gums are injured by vigorous brushing or flossing, you can apply a cold compress to the gumline. It can reduce the swelling and the blood flow to the injured areas.
Severe cases of gum disease may require invasive treatments, including:
- Pocket reduction surgery — removing tartar from below the gumline and pushing the tissue closer to the tooth to reduce the pockets.
- Bone graft — rebuilding the bone damaged by gum disease to prevent tooth loss or allow dental implant installation.
- Soft tissue graft — rebuilding gum tissue.
Important: bleeding gums aren’t a disease. They are a symptom. Understanding the root of the problem is the key to developing the right course of treatment.
Battling Bleeding Gums to Improve Your Health
While bleeding gums may not cause severe discomfort, they could be a symptom of a serious condition. If you notice blood on your gums and teeth after brushing, contact your dentist.
The key to preventing bleeding gums is proper oral hygiene. By using the right brushing and flossing techniques and getting regular dental check-ups, you can avoid bleeding gums and improve the quality of your life.
For more information about bleeding gums, treatments, and prevention techniques in adults, please contact Pure Dentistry Dental Clinic in Brisbane. And for children contact Dr Soha Sharif Brisbane Kids Dentist.