If you have ever been brushing your teeth and noticed blood in the sink, the chances are it came from bleeding gums. While it can seem like a minor irritation, bleeding gums can be a signal that your oral health is not as good as it could be. Below we look at what causes bleeding gums, and the action you should take to combat this problem.
Bleeding gums are often a sign of gingivitis or gum disease. Gingivitis occurs when the gums become inflamed by a bacterial infection. If gingivitis is left untreated it can progress to a more serious infection called periodontitis. Periodontitis and gingivitis are one of the major causes of adult tooth loss.
The Cause of Gingivitis
Because your gums attach to your teeth below the visible edge of the gum, this creates a space called a sulcus. Food and other debris can become trapped in the sulcus, and can cause infected gums.
If plaque which builds up on teeth is not removed it will harden into tartar. When this extends below your gum line, it can lead to an infection, and damage to the tissue and bone which support your teeth. If this is left untreated can cause the teeth to separate from the gums. Eventually, the tooth may fall out, or need to be removed by your dentist.
Below are some risk factors which increase the chance of gingivitis:
- Medications (such as oral contraceptives, anticonvulsants and steroids)
- Broken Fillings
- Crooked Teeth
The treatment of gingivitis involves maintaining good oral hygiene over an extended period of time. Depending on how far the gum disease has progressed, your dentist may also use other treatments to get the condition under control.
Your dentist may perform a deep clean of your teeth to remove any build up of tartar above and below the gum line. This can be carried out using scaling and root planing to smooth or remove infected parts of the teeth.
Your dentist may also prescribe medication to help to treat gingivitis by killing bacteria in the mouth. This will normally be in the form of oral antibiotics or an antibiotic mouthwash.
In advanced cases, your dentist may recommend surgery to treat gum disease and save teeth. There are two forms of surgery which are normally used to combat gum disease:
1. Flap surgery. During this procedure the gums will be lifted back so plaque and tartar can be removed. The gums will then be sutured to close the gap between the tooth and gum.
2. Bone and tissue grafts. This procedure is used when the teeth and jaw are damaged to a point that they will not heal.
If left untreated, in the long term, gingivitis is associated with other health problems such as heart attack, lung disease, diabetes and stroke. So, if you notice any blood when you brush, make an appointment for a check up with your dentist and beat this problem before it beats you!