Bleeding gums can set off alarm bells for patients and can often be an important wake-up call for gum disease. The most important thing is not to ignore bleeding gums – they’re trying to tell you something! If you notice bleeding or tender gums, make an appointment with your dentist right away. There is a range of successful treatments for gum disease, and catching it early can make a big difference in the outcome.
What Are The Signs Of Gum Disease?
Bleeding or tender gums are one of the most common early indicators of gum disease. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) offers a helpful list of additional warning signs:
- Persistent bad breath
- Red or swollen gums
- Painful chewing
- Tooth sensitivity
- Receding gums and loose teeth in later stages
What Causes Bleeding Gums?
The direct cause of gum disease (which leads to bleeding gums) is plaque and bacteria building up under the gumline. This bacteria can cause tenderness and bleeding and, if left untreated, infection and tooth loss. In many ways, neglecting brushing, flossing and routine dental check-ups are at the root of gum disease. But other risk factors can come into play and make you more likely to get gum disease. Here are some risk factors identified by the NIH:
- Smoking and tobacco use in other forms are significant factors in gum disease (as well as other oral health problems). If smoking is causing dental health problems for you, your dentist can help you find the right product to help you quit.
- Diabetes and some other medical conditions have been shown to increase the likelihood of gum disease. So while we work to take the best possible care of our bodies, we can also focus on oral health at the same time.
- Some medications, including prescription and over the counter drugs that impact saliva flow, can cause problems with gum tissue. Let your dentist know your medical history and inform them of any changes at every dental visit. This can help your dentist identify potential problems and work with your doctor for optimal overall health.
- Hormonal changes in girls and women, including changes related to pregnancy and menopause, can cause problems with gum disease.
- Genetic predisposition: if you have a family history of gum disease, let your dentist know.
What Are The Stages Of Gum Disease?
Gum disease is broken down into two stages, with bleeding gums as one of the indicators on the earlier end – in the phase known as gingivitis.
Gingivitis happens when bacteria build up and cause gums to become irritated and bleed. If it’s caught during this phase, gum disease can often be treated with extra cleanings by your dentist and a commitment to regular brushing and flossing.
Left untreated, gingivitis can turn into periodontitis, a more severe form of gum disease. This happens when the gums become infected and pull away from the teeth. If left untreated, periodontitis can have serious effects and destroy the bone and tissue beneath the teeth. In this later phase, teeth may become loose and may have to be removed.
How Can My Dentist Treat Bleeding Gums and Gum Disease?
Preventing and controlling infection is usually your dentist’s primary goal in treating gum disease. In some cases, your dentist will need to do a deep cleaning involving what’s known as scaling and root planing. In this case, he will scrape the tartar from above and below the gumline and also remove pockets of bacteria from the tooth root. Your dentist may also prescribe an antibacterial mouth rinse or gel – or in some case oral antibiotics to help fight the infection.
If the infection is more severe, your dentist may have to take more dramatic steps. These include a procedure known as flap surgery where the dentist surgically lefts back the gums to remove tartar and plaque and then stitches them back together. In some cases where bone loss has occurred, your dentist may need to do graft using a natural or artificial graft to help regrow the bone. If gum tissue has been lost, your dentist may recommend a soft tissue graft using tissue from another part of your mouth.
Preventing and Treating Bleeding Gums
Your dentist’s goal is always to avoid more dramatic procedures through routine dental care and, in some cases, changing behaviors that hurt your oral health. You can help yourself by adopting healthy practices like quitting smoking and tobacco use, eating a healthy diet including high fiber, vitamin-rich foods, and of course brushing and flossing regularly.
But if your gums do start to bleed, don’t let worry or embarrassment keep you out of the dentist’s chair. Instead, call Greenhill Family Dental Care to schedule an appointment with us. Our dentists will help identify the cause of your bleeding gums and help you avoid more serious gum disease in the future!