Most people have experienced bleeding gums at some point in their lives, whether from brushing or flossing their teeth. Even so, this should not be a common occurrence.
If your gums usually bleed after cleaning your teeth, that is the first tell-tale warning sign of periodontal (gum) disease. Periodontal disease starts as “gingivitis”, a generally reversible and milder stage of the infection.
When a person fails to make proper changes to their oral hygiene routine and does not see their dentist regularly, the initial stage of periodontal disease may progress to a more advanced stage, referred to as “periodontitis”.
In this article, we will explore periodontitis along with its common causes, symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options, as well as tips on preventing this condition from developing in the first place.
What is periodontitis and how is it caused?
Periodontitis is a severe oral health condition that affects the gums and supporting structures of the teeth. It is caused by harmful bacteria that accumulate in the mouth due to a lack of proper daily cleaning.
This bacteria causes a sticky film or plaque that forms on the teeth, eventually hardening and turning into calcified deposits of tartar (otherwise known as calculus).
Unfortunately, tartar is much more stubborn and difficult to remove from the teeth’s surfaces and below the gum line. Therefore, it can only be eliminated with the help of a professional during a deep cleaning session.
Without proper and timely treatment, the bacteria responsible for periodontitis contributes to the progressive destruction of the gums and underlying bone. Often, this results in eventual tooth loss for the patient and poses risks to their overall systemic health.
Common Warning Signs of Periodontitis
Since periodontitis starts as gingivitis, it is important to understand the warning signs for both stages of gum disease.
As the disease-causing bacteria in plaque and tartar produce toxins, the immune system responds to gingivitis by sending white blood cells to fight the infection. This leads to inflammation of the gums, causing them to bleed easily after cleaning and often becoming more red and swollen in appearance.
If you continue to neglect your gum health, gingivitis will eventually progress into periodontitis, resulting in more severe symptoms. In addition to swollen gums that bleed easily, you may start to notice that chewing becomes painful, and the gums become tender to the touch. They may also appear to be purple in colour.
Moreover, the bacteria and toxins in the accumulated plaque and tartar will cause the gums to recede and pull away from the teeth, forming pockets. These pockets become an ideal habitat for bacteria to thrive, leading to an even more severe infection. As this infection spreads, it destroys the bone and connective tissues that support the teeth, causing them to become loose and eventually fall out.
Risk Factors for Periodontitis
While periodontitis is far more common in older adults, the condition can still affect individuals of all ages. With that being said, the most common risk factors for periodontitis include poor oral hygiene habits, poor diet, regular tobacco use, certain medications that contribute to dry mouth, and certain medical conditions such as diabetes.
Treatment for periodontitis will typically involve a combination of the following: an intense cleaning referred to as “scaling and root planing”, a prescribed course of antibiotics and an improved at-home oral hygiene plan.
However, in severe cases, more advanced treatment will be necessary. In addition to the aforementioned treatments, a patient may require certain surgical procedures. Flap surgery (pocket reduction) might be needed to clean out the infected pockets and allow for more effective scaling and root planing. Gum-grafting and bone-grafting surgery could also be necessary for restoring lost gum and bone—both of which are necessary foundations for supporting healthy teeth.
In some cases, the teeth may need to be removed, and the patient will require gum and bone grafting to support a dental implant restoration.
Practicing proper oral hygiene at home is essential for preventing periodontitis. This includes brushing the teeth twice every day for at least two minutes. We recommend implementing a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste into your oral hygiene routine. Additionally, it is critical to floss at least once daily and use an antimicrobial mouth rinse. It is also paramount to visit a dentist regularly for check-ups and professional cleanings.
Lastly, your diet and lifestyle habits play a significant role in determining the health of your gums and overall smile. Try your best to consume a balanced diet rich in healthy, dental-friendly foods such as vegetables and fruits, whole grains, cheese, nuts and proteins, as well as low in sugary or overly processed “junk” foods and beverages. Also, try to quit any habits involving tobacco use, such as smoking or chewing it.
Good oral hygiene, regular dental check-ups, and avoiding risk factors are essential for maintaining healthy gums and preventing periodontitis.
Prevention Is Always Better Than the Cure
Preventing periodontitis from wreaking havoc on your smile is the best way to avoid the severe consequences of the disease. If you are experiencing symptoms such as red, swollen gums or bleeding while brushing, you must see your dentist as soon as possible to diagnose and treat the problem.
At Downtown Sleep Dentistry and Oral Surgery, our full-service dental sedation services allow patients of all ages and oral health backgrounds to receive the essential dental treatment they need with minimal stress and optimal comfort.
To learn more about our dental services and sedation options, or to schedule an appointment with our dental specialists in Hamilton, call Downtown Sleep Dentistry and Oral Surgery at 289-272-8696 or contact us here.