If your gums are bleeding, what’s the big deal?
What if you brushed your hair and your scalp started to bleed?
Those would be major signs that something isn’t right. And your gums are no different.
While a tiny bit of blood shouldn’t land you at an emergency dental visit, there’s no reason to be okay with any blood in your mouth. Ever.
Gingivitis, or bleeding, inflamed gums, is the first stage of gum disease, usually caused by plaque buildup under the gumline. This common dental condition impacts nearly half of adults over 30. If not addressed early, gingivitis leads to serious periodontal disease and may result in tooth loss and gum recession.
The good news? Gingivitis can be reversed with good oral hygiene, a healthy diet, and an understanding of the oral microbiome.
If you don’t address gingivitis, it will eventually progress to full-blown periodontal disease (periodontitis). This painful condition causes gum recession and is associated with nearly every major disease.
Sadly, 42% of adults over 30 have some form of periodontitis. 7.8% of these adults have “severe” periodontitis, according to the American Dental Association (ADA).
The major difference between gingivitis and periodontitis is that gingivitis has not yet resulted in bone loss. Once bone loss has set in, you risk losing teeth.
Healthy gums are pale, pink, strong, and snugly wrapped around your teeth.
When gingivitis begins, the condition of your gums may start to change. Symptoms of gingivitis include:
- Bleeding gums
- Red or purple gums
- Painful, tender gums
- Bad breath
- Itchy gums
What causes gingivitis?
Gingivitis is typically caused by plaque and tartar buildup below the gumline, which triggers inflammation.
Dental plaque develops when pathogenic oral bacteria grow out of control and collect under the gums. When plaque remains on the teeth too long, it hardens and becomes tartar.
Most often, gingivitis is caused by one or more of the following factors:
- Poor oral hygiene, such as a lack of daily brushing and flossing
- Weakened immunity, like with an autoimmune condition such as Sjogren’s or poor overall health
- Antibacterial mouthwash, which actually causes a daily overgrowth of harmful bacteria by destroying the oral microbiome
- Poor diet, high in sugar and low in nutrient-dense foods
- Smoking or chewing tobacco, which destroys gum tissue, increases inflammation, and destroys overall health
- Hormonal changes, such as those during pregnancy, menopause, or menstruation
Less frequently, you may develop gingivitis due to:
- Bacterial, viral, or fungal infections (including oral thrush)
- Genetic disorders, primarily hereditary gingival fibromatosis (HGF)
- Inflammatory or autoimmune diseases
- Metabolic disorders
- Precancerous or oral cancer lesions (like leukoplakia)
- Scurvy (vitamin C deficiency)
- Trauma to gum tissue
Is gingivitis reversible? Yes, gingivitis is reversible. In most cases, mild to moderate gingivitis may clear up with just 2-3 weeks of proper home care and a professional cleaning.
Several gingivitis treatments, at home or at your dentist, can effectively reverse this condition before it leads to jawbone loss or more serious problems.
Unfortunately, many conventional ideas about treating gingivitis are based on outdated science.
For instance, mouthwash is one of the worst things to do for bleeding, infected gums. It’s not a gingivitis cure! For one, it disrupts the oral microbiome, which needs bacteria in order prevent gingivitis.
To stop gingivitis, you must address the root cause, which is a buildup of the “bad” bacteria in your oral microbiome.
The most effective professional treatment for gingivitis is a teeth cleaning. You should see your dental professional for a cleaning every 6 months (or more often, if prescribed). During a dental cleaning, your dental hygienist will remove plaque and tartar from your teeth.
If your dentist is concerned about gum disease, he or she may send you to a periodontist. A periodontist may recommend you have a scaling and root planing every 3 months. This deep teeth cleaning is a standard treatment for periodontitis.
If you suspect you have gingivitis, you can reach out to us for a quick consult. Use this to book a session.