What is gum disease and what causes it?
If your gums are swollen, tender or bleed easily when you brush your teeth you have gum disease.
Sadly you are not alone as over 80% of adults have some form of gum disease.
What I find alarming is that most people think it is normal for their gums to bleed when brushing, this is not true.
Bleeding gums are a sign you have inflammation of your gums – gingivitis (from gingiva – gums and itis – inflammation). Gingivitis is caused by bacteria and if left untreated can progress to serious gum diseases, bone destruction and tooth loss.
Gum disease not only affects your teeth and mouth but can affect your health, there are numerous studies linking gum problems to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, lung infections, fertility problems, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and even cancer.
The good news is gum disease is easy to treat and prevent. Daily brushing and flossing plus regular professional cleans by your dentist or hygienist reduce your risk of developing gingivitis and if you already have gum issues your dentist can assist you to reverse the damage.
When I look at you mouth I’m not only looking at your teeth, as a holistic dentist I am interested in the condition of your gums, tongue and soft tissues as these can tell me a lot about the health of your mouth and body. Gum disease can indicate underlying medical conditions and your risk for related health problems.
Early stage gum disease is usually not painful, if it were the queue outside my rooms in Kenmore would be massive, so you can have it without even realising.
The warning signs are: swollen, soft, red bleeding gums, blood on your toothbrush or in the sink when you spit out after cleaning your teeth.
Bleeding gums mean you have inflammation and inflammation is detrimental not only to your gums but to your health.
In a nut shell – plaque.
Plaque is the invisible, sticky bacterial film that grows on your teeth. Plaque is fed by sugars and starch from your food. The more carbohydrates you consume the more plaque you create and the more you increase your risk for gum disease and dental decay.
Thankfully proper toothbrushing removes plaque. However, if you don’t brush for long enough or well enough the plaque stays on your teeth where it breeds and gets thicker and more aggressive bacteria start to multiply. Plaque irritates your gums and leads to inflammation and bingo you have gum disease.
Plaque that sits on your teeth for more than a day or two starts to harden under your gumline to form tartar, which we call calculus in the trade. Tartar is like having like dirt under your fingernails, you need more than a hand wash to get the dirt out and so it follows that you need more than a toothbrush to remove tartar. To remove tartar you need a professional clean.
Tartar acts as a breeding ground for more bacteria, like a dirty splinter under the skin it creates inflammation that cannot heal until the splinter is removed and the same applies to your gums, they will not improve until the tartar has been cleaned away by your dentist.
Other Factors that Cause Gum Disease
There are things other than plaque that can lead to gum disease such as medications, viral and fungal infections, underlying health problems, hormonal changes and poor nutrition. A holistic dentist can help you identify these causes and assist you to seek the appropriate care. (I will be writing more on this topic in upcoming blogs so stay tuned.)
What Can You Do About Gum Disease
First start by looking at your gums in the mirror. Healthy gums are firm and pale, with a dimpled texture like orange peel.
If your gums look puffy, swollen, red or purple see your dentist.
If you gums bleed easily when you brush see your dentist.
If your gums are sore or tender see your dentist.
The sooner you seek care the better your chances of reversing damage and preventing serious problems.
If you want to keep your teeth for life and care about your health then it pays to take your gum health seriously.
Regular and correct brushing and flossing are key, as is your diet, stress levels and overall level of wellbeing. To keep your gums and mouth in top condition regular professional dental cleans are a necessity. If you have any concerns about the health of your gums then speak to your dentist because we can help.