Periodontal Disease: Causes, Risks, and Prevention

, Health

If you’re like most people, which you’d never admit, you probably think that it’s normal for your gums to bleed when you brush them. This is because, according to a study conducted by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in 1999, approximately 50% of all Americans over age 30 have bleeding gums. If your gums bleed and you ask your friend about it, he’s going to tell you it’s perfectly natural because that’s what his mother fixed her bloody mouth to say. Genuinely, you’ll be happy to know that it’s not a big deal per se. You may have even heard a dentist reassure you that bleeding gums aren’t so bad, but “good” and “bad” are relative qualities. Sure, it’s not a big deal compared to tax reform, but you still need to fix it.

When you start to notice your gums bleeding when you brush, the critical thing to keep in mind is that, even if you choose to believe it’s not a big deal, the best that can be said is that it’s not a big deal yet. That can change, however. Bleeding gums are an indication that your gums are carrying bacterial infections that are in their early stages. By “not so bad,” we mean that “so bad” is what’s yet to come. The significance of these infections is that they attack your teeth’s support structures within the gums, including the gums themselves. This endangers the periodontal ligament, the cementum (i.e. the structure that covers the root), and the alveolar bone. When you first notice bloody gums, what you’re experiencing is the early onset stage we call gingivitis, and no doubt, you’ve heard of gingivitis. You might take bloody gums more seriously upon realizing that it can be termed with an –itis; that makes it real.

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You’ve got to brush as vigilantly as possible to get rid of dental plaque because the bacteria that infect your gums are coming from the plaque itself. Plaque is sticky, and it hardens on your teeth after you brush. Bacteria escape the plaque and set up shop in your gums, but your body’s immune system fights it with the same vim and vigor with which it fights every infection. Various cellular chemicals are released to fight the infection, but this fight is what inflames the gums and causes the kind of damage that leads to bleeding. If left unchecked, this can also lead to the teeth themselves becoming loose regardless of how permanent you may think they are. The tooth fairy doesn’t pay you for teeth lost due to negligence.

To be honest, some people are genetically more predisposed toward periodontal disease than others, which can be upsetting for anyone struggling to combat it. Those to whom this applies shouldn’t be discouraged, though, because genetic susceptibility is still no match for quality oral hygiene. Smoking and chewing tobacco, on the other hand, are activities that will make this an uphill battle to say the least. Although, these activities are going to lead to far worse things than periodontal disease, but bloody gums is the last thing you’ll want to think about when you’re undergoing chemotherapy; moreover, bloody gums will be the least of even your dental concerns, too, since smoking exacerbates all the complications of periodontal disease.

People of all ages get braces not necessarily realizing just how much braces are going to hinder your ability to properly clean your teeth. This makes braces something of a double-edged sword or a catch-22 if you will. Of course, there’s a such thing as aesthetically pleasing teeth, and we want to get proper alignment. In fact, in many cases, the use of braces is more than cosmetic anyway; occasionally, in fact, where there are braces there are often emergencies that only braces would fix. That being said, it is equally true that braces cause people to brush inconsistently or ineffectively. The same can be said of crowded or misaligned teeth on which, perhaps, you should’ve just invested in braces, assuming you can afford it.

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