What You Need to Know About Gingivitis and
gums bleed when you bite down on a crispy apple or a crusty
piece of bread? Do they bleed when you brush your teeth? If
they do, you should immediately make an appointment to see your
dentist. The most common cause of bleeding gums is a bacterial
infection of the gums. Dentists call it periodontal
disease or gum disease.
75 percent of the population suffer from gum disease in
various degrees of severity. Mild gum disease is called
gingivitis, severe gum disease is called
periodontitis. Although gum disease can cause major
problems and pain and expense, its symptoms are often mild,
except in the most severe cases when your teeth start falling
out. Many people who have mild to moderate gum disease don't
even know they have it.
The consequences of untreated gum disease can be quite
serious. It is the major cause of tooth loss in adults. And it
can significantly increase your risk for heart disease, stroke,
and osteoporosis. Pregnant women with gum disease have a
significantly higher risk of miscarriage and premature
Fortunately, gum disease can easily be prevented by
following a few simple oral hygiene rules. And if you have gum
disease, you can improve your situation by improving your oral
hygiene. We'll show you how.
What Happens When You Get Gum Disease?
Whether or not you have gum disease (periodontal disease),
everybody has bacteria in their mouths. Some bacteria are
harmless, and some can infect you and cause disease. You should
not try to kill all the bacteria in your mouth -- you will only
end up hurting delicate oral tissues. It is enough to keep the
harmful bacteria in check. We live in a world of microbes, and
we must learn to live in harmony with them.
Bacteria in your mouth form plaque -- a soft, white
substance which adheres to teeth, tongue, and gums. Harmful
bacteria can live beneath this soft blanket. Inadequate oral
care will fail to remove all the plaque from your mouth,
especially from between your teeth. When plaque is not removed,
it calcifies (hardens). Calcified plaque, known as tartar,
cannot be removed by simply brushing and flossing -- your
dental hygienist must do it.
The longer tartar is left on teeth and gums, the more
harmful bacteria can grow beneath it. The bacteria beneath
tartar release toxins which damage your gums and cause
inflammation. These bacteria also invade gum tissue, leading to
even more inflammation. Early inflammation of the gums is
called gingivitis, and is the first stage of gum
Fortunately, gingivitis is easily prevented by proper
flossing and brushing. Ask your dentist to review your flossing
and brushing techniques. Many dentists recommend advanced
electrical toothbrushes such as Braun Oral-B® and Sonicare®.
These devices can remove plaque and bacteria that hide just
below the gumline, where manual toothbrushes cannot reach.
If left unchecked, gingivitis may progress to
periodontitis. Often painless, periodontitis occurs when
bacterial infection of the gums spreads down along the tooth to
its root. When this happens, your gums will pull away from the
affected tooth, causing a deep pocket to form. Your dentist can
check your pocket depth with a painless probe to see if you
have or have had gum disease. If periodontitis is left
unchecked, your jaw bone will dissolve and your teeth will
progressively loosen till they fall out.
Other signs of gum disease include halitosis (bad breath),
red or swollen gums, loose teeth, pus issuing from the gums,
tender gums or pain on chewing, gums which bleed spontaneously,
or bleeding when eating or brushing your teeth.
Stop periodontal disease early to spare yourself
major pain, expense, and serious health problems.
Gum Disease: The Consequences
Gum disease can have severe consequences on your health and
Bad Breath (halitosis)
Halitosis which accompanies minor gum disease (gingivitis) can
easily be eliminated by a conscientious program of flossing and
brushing, plus gentle brushing of your tongue, inner cheeks,
and the roof of your mouth.
Halitosis due to major gum disease (periodontitis) is due to
a festering infection in the deep pockets that you have allowed
to form. This form of halitosis can only be treated by
eliminating the pocket -- see a dentist. You still need to
carry out the oral hygiene program listed above.
Bacterial infection of the tooth ligaments and jaw bone will
cause teeth to loosen and eventually fall out.
Recent clinical studies have shown that pregnant women with
periodontal disease are much more likely deliver
Increased Risk of Heart Attack, Stroke, and
Recent research indicates that gum disease bacteria routinely
enter the bloodstream, where they initiate hardening of the
arteries (atherosclerosis), which increases the risk of stroke
and heart attack. Gum disease is also associated with
significantly increased risk of osteoporosis.