Gum disease relates to swelling, soreness or infection of the tissues supporting the teeth. There are two categories: Gingivitis and Periodontitis. Within these categories there is varying severity. Both may cause bleeding gums and bad breath. Both need treatment.
Our body's defence mechanism works through its blood. Bacteria in the mouth are able to stick to the teeth and gums using a polysaccharide glue. When they clump together in plaques, they change and become toxic to us. Our body therefore produces lots of blood vessels around these areas which readily leak blood and associated fluids onto the clumps of bugs in order to protect us. Therefore, in this case, bleeding gums are a sign of immunological reaction to a bacterial infection.
What is gingivitis?
Gingivitis means inflammation of the gums as described above. The necks of the gums become red and swollen. These areas readily weep in order to help the body. Often the gums will bleed more when they are brushed, but this is not a reason to not brush as the body needs help to remove the bacteria and only then it can heal itself. Therefore gingivitis and bleeding gums is a reversible condition if treated correctly.
What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is a deeper inflammation/immunological reaction affecting the bone and other fibres. Periodontitis always follows gingivitis, however gingivitis does not always lead to periodontitis. Factors that may influence whether you get periodontal disease may include smoking, family traits or other disorders such as Diabetes. There are a number of types of periodontal disease and they all affect the tissues supporting the teeth. As the disease gets worse the bone anchoring the teeth in the jaw is lost, making the teeth loose. If this is not treated, the teeth may eventually fall out. Bleeding gums can be the first sign that you have a periodontal condition.
What is the cause of gum disease?
All gum diseases are caused by plaques of bacteria and how you respond to them. Many of the bacteria in plaque are completely harmless, but there are some that have been shown to be the main cause of gum disease. To prevent and treat gum disease, you need to make sure you remove all the plaque from your teeth every day. This is done by brushing all surfaces circumferentially. With Periodontal disease, treatments need to be aimed below the gum-line and this requires our help.
What happens if gum disease is not treated?
Unfortunately, gum disease progresses painlessly on the whole so that you do not notice the damage it is doing. However, the bacteria are sometimes more active and this makes your gums sore. This can lead to gum abscesses, and pus may ooze from around the teeth. Over a number of years, the bone supporting the teeth can be lost. If the disease is left untreated for a long time, treatment can become more difficult.
How do I know if I have gum disease?
In non-smokers, the first sign is blood on the toothbrush or in the rinsing water when you clean your teeth. Your gums may also bleed when you are eating, leaving a bad taste in your mouth. Your breath may also become unpleasant. In smokers, the immunological responses are dampened and the disease can progress without signs or symptoms. The inhalation of smoke can be a direct irritant and may directly affect the tissues adversely. Often the smoke itself hides the odours and any tastes associated. Drifting of the teeth and looseness are often seen in the latter stages of the disease.