12 things you must know about bleeding gums

What is gingivitis or gum disease?

Gingivitis or gum disease means inflammation of the gums, or gingiva. It commonly occurs when a film of plaque or bacteria, accumulates on the teeth. Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease. Many people with gum disease are unaware they have a problem because it’s often ‘silent’ with no pain or symptoms.

  • Otherwise, the first sign is usually bleeding from your gums, when you brush your teeth.
  • Gums may also become swollen, red and uncomfortable.
  • You may have bad breath.
  • You can have an unpleasant taste in the mouth.

More advanced gum disease can lead to loosening of the teeth or even abscesses in the gum.

What causes gum infection?

Our mouth has a large number of bacteria. Certain disease causing bacteria combine with debris and mucous to form ‘Plaque’. This plaque is tenacious and sticks to your tooth surface. The bacteria strive in this plaque and damage your gums. Further, Plaque hardens to form ‘Tartar’ because of the  calcium and other minerals in your saliva. Plaque bacteria combined with tartar causes gum infection. Smoking increases your risk for a gum infection. Other conditions like diabetes, hormonal changes in women, medications that reduce salivary flow, AIDS and genetic predisposition increases this risk. Follow proper oral hygiene care that removes plaque regularly.

How will I know if my gums are infected?

Severe gum infection does not develop ovenight. Bleeding gums is the first sign of gum infection. If you notice any of the below changes in your gums, then talk to your dentist

  • Gums that are swollen, tender or bleeding
  • Pus discharge from your gums
  • Receding gums
  • Chronic bad breath
  • Loose teeth
  • Gaps developing between teeth
  • A noticeable change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite

Is it okay for my teeth to be yellow?

Your teeth can be naturally yellowish because of the colour of your enamel. However, not all yellow teeth are healthy. It completely depends on where that yellowing is coming from. Bad oral hygiene, tobacco products, certain medications, certain foods and beverages, and the aging process can all cause discoloration or yellowing of teeth. If the yellow colour is coming from plaque or tartar buildup, then it goes without saying that your teeth are not in great condition.

Why do my gums look red and swollen?

The normal colour of the gums is a coral pink. The normal texture is firm and a stippled appearance, also called orange peel appearance. When the gums is infected due to plaque bacteria, it causes gingivitis. This is a mild form of gum infection. When this condition is left untreated and it progresses to the advanced gingivitis, redness of the gums is seen. The inflammation in the gums causes it to become swollen with a red shiny appearance. Proper brushing and flossing prevents redness of gums.

Why do I have bleeding gums?

Bleeding gums is the first sign of gum infection-gingivitis. Plaque is a biofilm that forms on the tooth surfaces and on prosthesis. When this plaque is not removed by proper brushing and flossing, it gets hardened by the calcium in the saliva. This tartar harbours many bad bacteria that damage the gums. This causes inflammation or redness and bleeding from the gums. Brushing, biting on hard food, applying pressure on the gums and sometimes flossing can cause the gums to bleed.

Why do my gums pain?

A dull, continuous pain in the gums which is released on applying pressure is indicative of an advanced gum disease. The pain can occur with loose teeth, inability to chew on hard food with loss in the height of the gums. The pain occurs due to infection to the underlying bone. Evaluation by your dentist and appropriate treatment procedure can stop the disease process from progressing.

What treatment will your dentist suggest?

As the first step, your dentist will do a scaling ( cleaning of teeth ). You will be called for an evaluation after one week. Your dentist will re-examine your gums for healing. He can recommend a full mouth x-ray like an OPG to evaluate the condition of the bone. Subsequent treatment of a gum (surgery with or without laser) will be done depending on the outcome of the scaling. However, at all times warm salt water rinsing and using an antibacterial mouthwash is helpful.

How often should I get my teeth cleaned?

Your dentist or the dental hygienist will do a routine teeth scaling or oral prophylaxis in the dental office. Scaling is the process to removal tartar deposited on the tooth surfaces. Generally, your dentist will recommend scaling once a year as a routine dental health procedure. Some people need scaling every 6 months. The frequency of teeth cleaning depends various factors. If you have severe gum infection, then your dentist will schedule more frequent scaling appointments.

What is periodontitis or advanced gum disease?

Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis. With time, plaque can spread and grow below your gum line.  Gums separate from your teeth, forming pockets (spaces between the teeth and gums) that become infected. As the disease progresses, the pockets deepens and destroys your gum tissue and bone. Often, this destructive process has very mild symptoms. Eventually, your teeth can become loose and has to be removed.

Why does my teeth become loose?

Human teeth are held in the sockets of the jaw bone by the ‘periodontal ligament’. The ligament attaches the root of the tooth to the adjacent bone. The fibre groups of the ligament suspend the tooth and help in chewing, proprioception (ability to sense chewing forces and hard objects on biting) and holding the tooth in position. A gum disease like gingivitis that progresses to periodontitis ( Advanced gum disease ) infects the bone. The infection dissolves the supporting bone. This causes loss of attachment of the ligament. Your tooth loses support and becomes mobile.

Do I need to take antibiotics for teeth cleaning, if I’m diabetic?

Generally, non invasive teeth cleaning procedure does not cause problems, if you are a well controlled or moderately well controlled diabetic. Your dentist will advise a routine oral prophylaxis. Antibiotics are given for a diabetic patient for the same procedures that is done in a non diabetic patient. This includes any invasive surgical procedures. Poorly controlled diabetics ( fasting blood glucose above 250 mg/dL) will be referred for better control of sugar levels for non-emergency procedures. In case of emergency, in poorly controlled patients, prophylactic antibiotics is prudent.

 

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