Gums, also known as gingiva, is the pink tissue that lies around a person’s teeth. From an early age we are told about the importance of keeping our gums clean and healthy, in order to keep them safe from harmful health defects like gingivitis and other forms of gum disease. Gum health can actually have an effect on a person’s overall health, and can be extremely painful. There are different types of problems that can result from bad dental hygiene in regards to the gums.
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is extremely common across American adults. This can be anything from small inflammation of the gums to serious damage to tissue and bone that support the teeth, which can result in teeth removal. Once a person is diagnosed with gum disease, the process can be reduced, but this involves serious habit changes in the way the person cleans their gums and teeth. Bacteria in a person’s mouth merge with other items to create plaque on the teeth. This is why we are told to brush and floss, to get rid of this harmful plaque. If the plaque is not removed it can harden and turn into tartar, also known as calculus. This is much harder to remove so it requires professional attention. Gum disease happens when this plaque or tartar forms around the gum line, causing inflammation and eventually infection. Therefore, it is advised to go to the dentist at least two times a year for checkups.
Signs of gum disease do not usually arrive until a person is in there 30s or 40s. Smoking, diabetes, AIDS and other diseases, certain medications, and genetics are many risks that can cause or worsen gum disease in a person. Major symptoms of gum disease are consistent bad breath, swollen gums, red and bleeding gums, trouble and pain when chewing, teeth that are loose and/or sensitive, and gums that recede making the teeth appear larger than before, among other things. Gum disease is fixed by attempting to stop the infection, and in more severe cases deep cleaning methods such as scaling or root planing and sometimes surgery need to be performed.
Periodontal Health Effects
Plaque and gum disease can cause more damage in a person’s body, outside of their mouth and teeth. Studies have found links between gum disease and other diseases and health defects such as heart disease, diabetes, dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, and premature birth, among other things. It is believed that this bacteria in the mouth that causes and worsens the gum disease, spreads into the bloodstream entering and injuring the body’s major organs, causing other major problems. Also the inflammation in the mouth can also cause increased inflammation in other parts of the body, which can be a leading cause in many of these problems. This is why it is important for a person to brush their teeth at least two times a day and to floss. This helps to remove and diminish the harmful plaque. Not only can plaque cause damage to person’s mouth and teeth, but the rest of a person’s body and overall health.
Healthy Gums are pink in color. They do not look swollen or red, as compared to gums who have stages of gum disease. They should not bleed easily and should not be tender to the touch. If this is not the case for your gums, you should continue reading below for more information on gum disease, the causes, symptoms and effects.
Gingivitis is a minor form of gum disease, but can lead to more harmful effects down the road. It causes inflammation and irritation of the gums. Gingivitis can be hard to diagnose because many patients do not know they have it. However it is important to get checked out, which is why it is recommended do visit a dentist at least twice a year, so that conditions to not worsen and turn into more harmful forms of gum disease outlined above. Like all diseases, it is important to catch symptoms early so that a preventative plan of attack can be formed in order for worsening conditions to be slowed and hopefully stopped.
Here are some symptoms of gingivitis, which are similar to that of more severe forms of gum disease:
- swollen, soft, tender, and puffy gums,
- gums that have receded causing teeth to appear elongated,
- bleeding gums,
- discoloration of the gums from pink to red,
- and consistent bad breath that will not go away.
Some of the risk factors of gingivitis are similar to more severe forms of gum disease such as:
- poor mouth care
- use of tobacco and other drugs
- old age
- diseases such as AIDs or HIV, and leukemia
- some medications
- viral and fungal infections
- dry mouth
- pregnancy induced hormonal changes
- lack of healthy nutrition habits
Gingivitis is mostly caused by poor oral upkeep. This is why it is important for us to brush our teeth twice a day and floss regularly. Plaque comes back quickly, usually within a day, which is why it is important to keep up with teeth and mouth cleansing schedules. Conditions can worsen easily and result in more severe forms of gum disease, and loss of teeth.
Periodontitis is a more severe form of gum disease and causes damage to tissue and bones that support our teeth. Like gingivitis and other forms of gum disease, it is usually caused by poor dental upkeep. Periodontitis can cause loss of teeth as well as more serious health defects like heart problems and strokes.
Some symptoms of periodontitis are as follow, they are similar to gingivitis and other minor forms of gum disease, but the symptoms are more severe. These symptoms include but are not limited to:
- swollen gums
- gums that are red or purple in color
- tender gums
- receding gums
- fresh spaces between teeth
- pus in the gaps between teeth and gums
- consistent bad breath and taste in a person’s mouth
- teeth that are loose
- major bite changes.
The disease can range from slight to moderate to advanced forms.
Like other forms of gum disease, periodontitis starts with plaque. It is more severe that gingivitis and occurs when inflammation from gingivitis worsens, creating pockets between a person’s teeth and gums. As the infection worsens, these pockets are filled with plaque, calculus and other bacteria, which causes irreparable damage to the mouth, teeth and gums.
Some of the risks involved with periodontitis are as follows:
- poor upkeep of the mouth and teeth
- use of tobacco and other drugs
- old age
- diseases such as HIV or AIDS and leukemia
- bad nutrition habits
- some medications
- pregnancy or menopause induced hormonal changes
- biting problems
Periodontitis can cause other serious problems. These include but are not limited to:
- loss of teeth
- coronary artery disease
- premature births
- worsening diabetes
- problems breathing and asthma
- rheumatoid arthritis
- heart attacks.
Like other forms of gum disease, the infection can enter the bloodstream through the damaged gum tissue and enter organs like the lungs or heart, causing harmful damage and disease.
If a person is experiencing any of those issues or thinks they may be, it is important to get checked out as soon as possible. Gum disease worsens the more time a person takes. It is best to catch the symptoms and problems at the gingivitis stage so it does not worsen to the stages of periodontitis, or even worse advanced periodontitis.
To determine periodontitis stages a dentist can test using a device that measures the pockets between the teeth and gums, or taking dental x-rays. If a dentist finds that the disease has worsened to the advanced stage, immediate action must be taken.
Advance periodontitis is the worst of all. The possibility of tooth loss is infinitely greater, bone loss and damage is more severe, abscesses occur more often, bleeding and drainage is more consistent and happens regularly. Some of the symptoms are as follows:
- red and/or swollen gums
- gums that ooze
- sensitivity to cold
- pocket depth increases
- chewing pains
- consistent severe bad breath.
At this stage surgery is necessary. The surgery cleans out the pockets of bacteria. If the disease is not attended to in a timely fashion, it can cause worsening receding gums, more sensitivity, worsening gaps between teeth, shifting and loosening teeth, loss of teeth, and bacteria entering the blood stream causing other health problems. This advanced stage of this disease will make it hard to do day-to-day activities due to constant pain. Please attempt to come in for a consultation as soon as possible so that we can provide you relief.
Gum disease can cause sensitivity of both the gums and teeth. As discussed above a major symptom of gum disease is sensitivity to cold. This can be caused by gingivitis, and worsens as a person enters the further stages of gum disease.
Gum sensitivity is a form of irritation occurring in the gums. This includes swollen or tender gums, which is a major symptoms of gum disease. It can also include gums that bleed often and consistent bad breath. Sensitivity can also cause the receding gums, where teeth become elongated due to the gums receding to an unhealthy level. This can also increase the probability of teeth loss and damage. Gum sensitivity can both worsen gum disease and can also result from it. Once again plaque is the usual cause for this. If a person believes they have sensitive gums, they should get them checked as soon as possible, because this could be a sign of gum disease.
Tooth sensitivity is mostly separate from gum disease but is similar to gum sensitivity. Both gum disease and receding gums can cause sensitive teeth. Receding gums is usually a product of gum disease so sensitive teeth can be a symptom of gum disease. However, tooth sensitivity is mostly caused by cavities and fractures, which are a separate topic. If a person believes they have sensitive teeth they need to get them checked out immediately in order to prevent gum disease and other problems. It is always better to be safe and sorry, especially if you are able to catch gum disease in the gingivitis stage.
To prevent all of these issues it is important to be consistent by brushing teeth twice daily, flossing, and regularly visiting a dentist office. Consult a dentist or dental hygienist for more information.