Your mouth is a hotbed of bacteria. Unchecked that bacteria can easily go from good, or even benign to, seriously damaging. While we all know the golden rule of thou shalt brush and floss at least twice a day, we may be inclined to ignore a small amount of blood in the sink if we’re keeping up with our oral hygiene.
But with the some three-fourths of the US population who are likely to experience periodontal (gum) disease in their adulthood, bleeding gums shouldn’t be ignored as they are signals of serious potential dental and health problems.
What’s even scarier is that in most cases, the vast majority of people don’t even know they have gum disease. It’s not painful, and aside from a small drop of blood or two they may be inclined to let it go until it advances. By educating yourself and becoming aware of the symptoms, you have a better chance of catching catch gum disease early before it turns into something more serious such as tooth loss or heart disease.
Bleeding in the gums on an occasional basis can stem from brushing too hard or an irritation of the gums, however persistent bleeding of the gums can indicate a number of illnesses including leukemia and vitamin deficiencies. Bleeding gums (even a few drops) shouldn’t be ignored.
What are some of the symptoms of gum disease?
Periodontitis” literally translates to “inflammation around the tooth”. Mild cases of gum disease may not be painful, and in fact, may not produce symptoms aside from a few drops of blood in the sink while brushing. More noticeable signs of gum disease include swollen, bad breath, inflamed or puffy gums, tenderness in the gum tissue around teeth.
If you notice your gums bleeding after brushing and flossing, be sure to look out for other, more serious symptoms even if you aren’t experiencing severe discomfort:
- Red, swollen, or tender gums
- Bad breath or tooth sensitivity
- Receding gums/formation of deep pockets between teeth and gums
- Changes how teeth fit together
What are some of the causes of bleeding gums?
One of the most common reasons that gums bleed is periodontal disease. Three-fourths of the US population is likely to experience periodontal (gum) disease during adulthood. Many patients may be unaware of the signs of gum disease, allowing symptoms to persist until they worsen.
Bleeding gums can be the result of things like brushing too hard, certain vitamin deficiencies, side effects of medications like blood thinners, improperly fitted dentures, or as a result of serious medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, leukemia or scurvy.
A dentist can accurately determine the cause and treatment for bleeding gums. While it is most likely a treatable case of gum disease, it is possible that the bleeding is merely the result of something more going on in your mouth or body so it’s important not to self-diagnose.
How to treat bleeding gums
A solid oral health routine is one of the best ways to prevent gum disease, remove particles and irritants from between and under the gums, and protect against tooth decay. Always seek treatment from a dentist if you notice bleeding gums, bad breath, swollen or hurting gums, or any changes in your oral health.
Best ways to treat bleeding gums:
- Proper dental hygiene
- Professional treatment from a dentist
- Professional deep dental cleaning
- Control and reverse gum disease
- Manage chronic illnesses
- Stop smoking and tobacco use
Dental cleanings from a professional remove dental plaque and tartar buildup that accumulates along the gum line and causes irritation. Moreover treating and managing chronic illnesses, and also kicking habits like smoking, can reverse the effects of gum disease.
In the case that plaque has hardened into tartar, a deep cleaning also known as root scaling and planning, is necessary to remove the buildup and restore oral health. Buildup along the gum line can cause irritation and infections in the tissue surrounding the teeth.
Gum disease that is left untreated eventually develops into periodontitis, forming pockets where bacteria collects. Periodontitis can lead to tooth loss, as the soft tissue and jaw bone is damaged. Prevent and treat gum disease at its early stages and you alleviate the pain and risk of losing bone, gum tissue and your teeth.
Fortunately advanced gum disease is reversible with proper hygiene and intervention from a dentist. Often antibiotics, mouth washes or other topical products are prescribed to help treat infection in the gums.
How gum disease relates to physical health
The mouth is seen as the gateway to health in the rest of the body. Numerous systems of the body as well as chronic illnesses have ties back to oral health. Studies suggest that inflammation may be the responsible factor that links periodontal disease to other diseases in the body. Therefore it’s extremely important to treat inflammation to not only manage periodontal disease, but to prevent other health conditions from arising.
Risk-factors like smoking and tobacco-use predispose users to developing gum disease that can cause gums to bleed. Patients with uncontrolled diabetes may also experience higher rates of gum disease. Bleeding gums during pregnancy is unfortunately common, since many women forgo dental visits. Gum disease during pregnancy can cause preeclampsia and low birth weight.
In extreme cases, there are some studies which suggest that, compared to people with healthy gums, those with gum disease were more likely to develop heart disease or have difficulty controlling their blood sugar levels. Still other studies show that there could be also be a possible link between gum disease and women who deliver their babies preterm or with low birth weights. And according to the American Academy of Periodontology, studies have shown that inflammation may be the responsible factor that links periodontal disease to other diseases in the body. Therefore it’s extremely important to treat inflammation to not only manage periodontal disease, but to prevent other health conditions from arising.