Gingivitis and the Bloody Gums. An epic tragedy.
Gingivitis. You would bleed too, if this happened to you (music).
I’ve touched on this subject before. It was just a matter of time until I had to actually write about this nasty, bloody, bone-damaging ogre of an oral health subject. I’m of course talking about gingivitis. Yes…that.
Gingivitis is part of the broader category of gum disease. Gum disease is an umbrella term which also covers the latter stages: periodontitis. The symptoms of gum disease can range from bleeding, swollen gums to pus coming out of the space between your teeth and gums (which produces a pretty foul odor, and consequently some pretty bad breath). Gingivitis comes from, essentially, bacteria. But there’s quite a bit more to it than that.
When you eat food, drink soft drinks, sweet drinks etc., some of that food and drink stays in your mouth. It gets stuck between your teeth, in deep crevices in your molars, along the gum line, and if you have cavities or broken parts of your teeth, it can also get stuck there. Your mouth is home to A LOT of different types of bacteria and the bacteria that cause gingivitis can also attract other types of bacteria. These bacteria love that food as much as (if not more) than you and I. They end up feeding on the food that was left in your mouth. They feed on it and they produce waste. The waste, food particles and the bacteria all create this substance called dental plaque. The waste being produced is toxic to your gums and tissue. Your gums become inflamed because of a response from your body’s immune system, which is trying to fight the bacteria. Your white blood cells are attacking the bacteria at this point which is partially causing the swelling, redness, and inflammation. There’s more fluid in the gums and they appear swollen and bleed easily.
That bloody hygiene visit.
As mentioned above, when the gums begin to become infected by this bacteria and plaque, they become irritated. Fluid has been diverted to this location (the gums) by the body, and is attempting to fight off the infection. Your gums appear red and swollen. When you brush your teeth they bleed. When you floss, you bleed. When you use a tooth pick, you may bleed. Heck, sometimes you can just press your finger to an area of the gums with gingivitis and it will start bleeding. This is not normal. It’s akin to poking your arm with your finger and watching blood ooze out of the spot you touched. It’s just not normal.
Now, as far as the dental visit goes. The pick-looking tool that dentists and dental hygienists use when they are “poking around your gums” is a measuring instrument. Yes, that’s right. It’s not just used to make you squirm with discomfort and pain, as it turns out (even though this may result). It happens to serve a purpose. (Who knew?) What that tool does is measure the pockets created by bacteria and your bodies response to them.
As gum disease worsens, your body begins the process of removing that infected area in the mouth (the tooth…) Part of the process is that the bone supporting the infected tooth begins to, essentially, dissolve itself. Your body is trying to eject your tooth (or teeth, depending on how widespread and advanced the gum disease is). The doctor and hygienist measure how bad off the state of your gums are by measuring how much bone loss has occurred. They call these spots where bone loss has occurred “pockets”. There are even different types of cleanings, depending on how deep the pockets are around the tooth, and how much bacteria and build-up are under the gum line.
Your gums are not supposed to bleed…
It’s true. Your gums really are not supposed to bleed. They should be a healthy pink color. The gums should be tight around your teeth with no separation. If your gums are bleeding, this is a sign of infection, and the beginning stage of gum disease.
Sometimes I’ve noticed that people don’t floss their teeth because it hurts them, or makes their gums bleed. Flossing correctly every day and brushing regularly actually remove bacteria in your mouth so that your gums don’t end up bleeding. The more you floss correctly and regularly, the cleaner your mouth is and the less likely your gums will hurt and bleed. It takes discipline and making a habit of regular, correct dental hygiene to get to the point that your gums don’t bleed every time you touch them (exaggeration).
I hope this answered some questions.
Stay healthy my friends.