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The Slippery Slope of Gum Disease

The Slippery Slope of Gum Disease

For many, bleeding with flossing or even brushing teeth is not an unheard of occurrence; in fact, for patients who don’t regularly floss, bleeding may occur every time they do– which of course discourages further flossing.

Here’s why you shouldn’t skip flossing, even if it’s uncomfortable at first: that bleeding is a sign of gingivitis, a disease condition that could lead to some pretty serious health consequences if left unchecked.

What happens in gingivitis?

Its name means inflammation of the gums, but what you’ll probably be most likely to notice is pain with brushing and flossing, bleeding–as mentioned, and darker color like red instead of the healthy pink. You may also notice slight heat or swelling around your gum tissue. All these are signs of gingivitis, and they are a warning.

Heed well this lesson

Your dentist in West Linn sees mild forms of gingivitis from time to time– it can happen even with very careful patients if they get busy and forget their usual flossing routine. The good news is it’s completely reversible; the cure is simply better dental hygiene.

But there is a message to be aware of: your gums are vulnerable to bacterial effects just as much as your tooth enamel, and if we don’t care for them the health impacts are very serious.

How do bacteria harm your gums?

The mechanism of attack is pretty simple. As we know, bacteria eat the sugars in our mouths and metabolize them into an acid, which eats away at dental enamel and forms cavities. Gum tissue also hates acid, and the inflammatory immune reaction to the acid attack is what actually sets the stage for more serious disease.

How it plays out

At first, when gum tissue is irritated by bacterial buildup and acidic residue, your body’s response is bleeding, redness, and pain. Later, if gingivitis goes unchecked, it can actually progress into a more serious gum disease called periodontitis.

In periodontitis, the gum tissue begins to pull away from the teeth, leaving deep pockets around the tooth roots where decay can set in, leading to tooth loss or even bone loss. Further, the chronic inflammation associated with this ongoing oral infection has been linked with a wide number of other diseases like cardiovascular disease and prostatitis. In fact, people with untreated gum disease are more likely to have heart problems and dementia as they age.

Floss first

This is why flossing is so important– it doesn’t just keep our breath fresh, it cleans critical parts of our mouths that are vulnerable to bacterial buildup and gum irritation. In most cases, we simply cannot brush in between our teeth. We need extra tools to reach those places and for that job floss is the winner.

Other useful gum-health tools are water picks, electric toothbrushes, and flouride rinse.

Are you concerned about your gum health? We are here to help. Schedule an appointment with your dentist in West Linn today.

Photo Credit: tobi.mattingly via Compfight cc

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