Sore gums, bleeding gums and gum care (or periodontal care)
What causes gum disease?
Gum disease is caused by plaque – a sticky, colourless film of bacteria that is constantly forming on your teeth. These bacteria produce toxins that can irritate the gums and damage teeth.
You know that brushing your teeth every day can help you avoid cavities. But avoiding cavities alone is not enough to keep your teeth healthy. You may be surprised to learn that most tooth loss in adults is not caused by tooth decay, but by gum disease.
Gums cover and protect the bone that supports your teeth. This bone is like a foundation that supports a building – if the foundation becomes weakened, the building may fall down, even though there’s nothing wrong with the building itself. Similarly, if the gums are not cared for, the bone underneath can become infected and damaged. You can lose your teeth if the bone is not strong enough to hold your teeth in place – even if you’ve never had a cavity in your life!
Signs of gum disease
- Your gums are tender, swollen, or red.
- Your gums bleed when you brush or floss.
- You can’t get rid of bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth.
- There is pus from your gum line or between your teeth.
- Your teeth are loose or separating.
- Your teeth or dentures no longer fit together correctly.
Am I at risk for gum disease?
Yes, gum disease can affect you at any age; however, it most often affects adults. In fact, about three out of four adults over age 35 have gum disease now or have had it in the past.
Your risk of getting gum disease may increase if you smoke or have certain medical conditions. It is therefore vital to keep your dentist informed of your general health.
Gingivitis is an early form of gum disease characterised by inflammation of the gums. It develops when plaque collects above and below the gum line. Many of us will experience gingivitis at some time in our lives. (Nearly 75% of people over age 35 now have gum disease or have experienced it previously.) Fortunately, with immediate proper care, this type of gum disease is completely reversible.
Gingivitis is caused by infrequent or incorrect brushing and flossing which results in plaque build up on tooth surfaces, between teeth and under the gum line. Symptoms occur when bacteria in the plaque produce toxins that irritate gum tissue, causing gum tenderness, inflammation and pain.
If the disease is allowed to progress, gum infection will occur, accompanied by a tendency to bleed during brushing. In cases of acute gingivitis, more severe symptoms occur.
Periodontitis is a disease that occurs when bacterial toxins penetrate the gingiva and cause inflammation of the gums, ligaments and the bone structure, which support teeth. Although the effects of this inflammation may be irreversible, the disease’s progress can be halted and controlled.
Because periodontitis may occur without visible symptoms, it is important for your dentist or hygienist to examine regularly for increased gum pocket depths, one of the earliest signs of the disease.
Early periodontitis may be associated with tooth sensitivity and a throbbing or tightness may be felt in the gum tissue. Periodontal disease can, however progress slowly without any visible signs or symptoms.
Moderate periodontitis may cause loosening of the teeth, and an intensification and increased incidence of early periodontal symptoms.
Advanced periodontitis is associated with gum recession, root decay, pus between teeth and gums, and loosening or loss of teeth.
Prevention of gingivitis and periodontitis
- Brush thoroughly at least twice a day, preferably in the morning and before bed. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush or a good quality power toothbrush – look for modern designs that are safe and gentle to use.
- Take your time. You should spend at least two minutes brushing to remove the plaque that is constantly forming on your teeth.
- Use toothpaste that contains fluoride. Fluoride is proven to help prevent cavities.
- Clean between teeth daily. Use floss or other interdental cleaners to remove plaque from areas that your toothbrush can’t reach. Did you know that if you don’t floss, you’re leaving up to 40% of your tooth surfaces untouched and uncleaned?
- See your dentist regularly to remove tartar build-up and check for signs of gum disease.