Are your gums red and puffy? Do they bleed when you floss or brush?
Redness, puffiness, and bleeding gums are all signs of gums inflammation resulting from gum infections.
Gingivitis? Gum disease? What does it mean and why does it matter?
When bacteria get under gums and around the teeth, they cause the irritation and inflammation that dentists call gingivitis. What starts as gingivitis, eventually progresses to bleeding gums and then to full blown gum disease and bone infections (what dentists call periodontitis). Fortunately, gingivitis is completely preventable! All it requires is keeping bacteria from taking up residence under the gums. The solution is as simple as daily brushing & flossing and regular dental cleanings. However, many people don’t take these solutions seriously because they don?t realize how quickly bacteria can multiply causing gingivitis and then gum disease. These serious infections are the main cause of tooth loss. (Read more about Bleeding Gums as a symptom of Gum Disease.)
Will a dental cleaning fix red and puffy gums?
Yes and no. Getting the correct kind of cleaning cures gingivitis. There are five types of dental cleanings and an every-6-months regular preventative cleaning will not cure widespread gingivitis. Why? Preventative dental cleanings are 30-45 minutes of plaque, tartar and bacteria removal off the teeth and above the gums. This is the amount of time that it takes to adequately clean healthy gums and teeth. If you have gingivitis, it is going to require additional time, tools and techniques to treat the active infection and remove the additional build up UNDER the gums. To treat gingivitis effectively, a hygienist needs to perform a thorough cleaning therapy, sometimes even requiring 2 separate visits several weeks apart, using ultrasonic cleaning instruments as well as antibiotics and laser therapy. Why two visits? When the gums are bleeding, it is nearly impossible to adequately access all of the infected areas during the first visit. Once the bulk of the bacteria and buildup has been removed, the gum tissue responds and shrinks, allowing the hygienist to observe any areas needing additional attention during the second visit. Gingivitis therapy cures the infection giving the gums a clean, new start.
Bleeding gums disease, can it be cured?
Untreated bleeding gums becomes gum disease, which is a much more serious infection. Why is it so serious? Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is a dangerous infection because the first thing it does is alter the structure of the gums and then the bone. While the body’s immune system is trying to fight off this infection, the gum tissue and bone become like civilian casualties. These important tissues get caught in the middle of the battle between the invading bacteria and and the immune system and are destroyed, leaving behind deep empty spaces where bacteria can hide and multiply.
Because of the way that gum disease alters gums and bone, once a person has gum disease they have it for their whole life. The infection that causes red puffy gums can be controlled and managed but it cannot be completely eliminated. Treating gum disease requires a special kind of cleaning called ‘deep cleaning’ or ‘root planing and scaling‘ that cleans the tooth surface down to the bone level. It also requires antibiotic therapy and laser treatment to help the body fight off the bacteria without continuing to damage bone and gums. This is very important because as bone is damaged, it dissolves away and leaves the teeth hanging with no support. In advanced, uncontrolled gum disease, bone dissolves until teeth are loose and fall out. Managing gum disease requires more frequent cleanings every 90 days as well as faithful brushing and flossing at home to keep the infection under control and to prevent it from ruining the jaw bone.
Bleeding Gums – not a big deal? Until It IS a Big Deal!
Because it doesn’t hurt and it doesn’t always affect the whole mouth at once, people often feel like gingivitis is not a big deal. They can’t understand why a ‘regular cleaning‘ won’t solve their problem. I just want a regular cleaning is something we hear all the time from people with active gingivitis. For a second, let’s forget we’re talking about teeth and let’s talk about cars. If you have a commuter car and you wash it regularly, it’s never going to need more than the basic wash to get clean, right? Now imagine what it would take to clean your car if you only washed it once every year or two. Cleaning off a year’s worth of dust, Texan bugs, oil slick and pollen is going to require some special tools and techniques. That’s how it works in your mouth too. Imagine the difference between cleaning out basic build up and bacteria compared to removing over a year’s worth of leftover food which has now hardened (called calcification or calculus or tartar) onto the teeth and has provided a constant source of bacteria which are attacking your body 24/7. No wonder gums get irritated and red. If your gums are all red and puffy and someone tells you that all you need is a regular cleaning, be warned: Anyone who says that a basic car wash is going to clean off a year’s worth of dead Texan bugs is lying. Don’t be fooled. It doesn’t work for cars and it won’t work for teeth.