When you think about dental health in general, you probably think about whether you have cavity in your mouth. But it's important to pay attention to your gums, too. Gums play a major role not only in your dental health, but in your overall well-being.
In many instances, swollen and bleeding gums are a sign of gum disease. However, there are a number of other things that could be causing your gum problems. Whatever the cause of sore, painful gums, there are steps you can take to minimize gum damage and discomfort.
More than three-quarters of American adults over age 35 get periodontal (gum) disease. While most people with gum disease have the less severe form, called gingivitis, between 5% and 15% have a much more serious type of gum disease known as periodontitis.
When people don't practice proper dental hygiene, bacteria in the mouth forms plaque on the teeth. These bacteria may cause your gums to become inflamed, which results in red, swollen, or bleeding gums. For many people with gingivitis, this inflammation is not painful. If you catch gingivitis early, it can be reversed and healed with proper oral hygiene. But left untreated, gingivitis can worsen and ultimately lead to tooth loss. Be sure to seek medical attention if you have the following symptoms, even if you don't have any discomfort:
changes in the way teeth fit together on biting, or in the fit of partial dentures
formation of deep pockets between teeth and gums
gums that bleed during and after toothbrushing
loose or shifting teeth
persistent bad breath or bad taste in the mouth
red, swollen, or tender gums
When gingivitis progresses, it develops into periodontitis, a condition in which the gums and bone that hold the teeth in place can be severely weakened. The bacteria on the teeth release toxic substances that harm your gums and cause them to become infected. The infection and the inflammation that result when your body attacks the bacteria can degrade your gums and the bone in your jaw even further. You may have exceptionally swollen, painful gums that are likely to bleed. If left untreated, periodontitis can lead to tooth loss.