February 1, 2020
February is Gum Disease Awareness Month, so it’s the perfect time to learn more about the serious impact it can have on your smile and overall health. Since it’s estimated that 65 million Americans have some form of gum disease (also called periodontal disease), there’s a good chance that you or someone you know has it. Keep reading to learn about bleeding gums and other signs of periodontal disease as well as what treatment options are available.
What Is Periodontal Disease?
This common condition occurs when bacteria cause inflammation of the gums and underlying bone that support the teeth and keep them in place. These structures are progressively destroyed over time, which explains why periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss.
Many studies have also shown that periodontal disease increases the risk of serious illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s and certain cancers. Researchers think these risks increase as inflammation in the gums “spreads” throughout the rest of the body.
Why Do My Gums Bleed When Brushing or Flossing?
Generally speaking, inflammation is your body’s response to injury or infection and causes symptoms like pain, heat, bleeding, and swelling. When your gums first become inflamed in the earliest stage of periodontal disease (called gingivitis, which literally means “inflamed gums”) they respond by bleeding easily and feeling tender or swollen.
As inflammation progresses to later stages, the symptoms also progress. In addition to bleeding, you may notice:
- Receding gums
- Chronic bad breath
- Loose teeth
- Pain or tenderness when chewing
Although advanced stages of periodontal disease can’t be reversed or cured, it can be treated to keep it from getting worse and lower your risk of tooth loss and general health problems.
How Is Periodontal Disease Treated?
Here are several examples of periodontal therapy that a dentist may recommend:
- Scaling and root planing – Sometimes called a “deep cleaning,” this procedure is usually done in 2 to 4 visits. After numbing your gums, a hygienist thoroughly removes the plaque, tartar and bacteria under the gumline and smooths the roots to discourage bacteria from building up again.
- Soft-tissue laser – This concentrated beam of light is an excellent tool for improving gum health. It precisely targets and kills bacteria under the gumline and is so comfortable that anesthetic isn’t usually necessary. It also has the added benefits of less bleeding and discomfort as well as faster healing.
- Antibiotic therapy – Antibiotic therapy is often a wonderful addition to other types of gum treatments. It offers an added layer of defense against the bacteria that inflame the gums and contribute to gum disease.
If you haven’t already, Gum Disease Awareness Month is a great time to schedule a checkup with a dentist. After they’ve evaluated your gums, they’ll make a plan to keep them healthy over the long-term.
For some people, that may involve nothing more than 6-month cleanings and checkups. Others may benefit from one of the treatments listed above. Either way, you’ll be taking steps towards not only maintaining your smile, but your overall health as well!
About the Author
Dr. Kari Blankenship is a family dentist with advanced training in several specialty areas, including periodontics. She and her colleague, Dr. Patel, offer multiple options for periodontal therapy that help their patients manage gum disease and improve their overall well-being. If you’d like to know more about your gums or have any questions, she can be reached via her website.
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