One night before going to bed, you go through your normal dental homecare routine. After brushing your teeth you notice blood on your toothbrush. It is not much, so you rinse your mouth and think nothing of it.
This is a very common scenario with our population. Have you ever thought about what you would do if you were to have bleeding anywhere else on the body? Would you not go to have it checked out by a doctor? Why is it that we do not do the same for our gum tissues? Is it because it is an area that is usually hidden from the view of others? Or is it that for some reason we think that it is not a big deal to begin with because the bleeding only occurs when we are brushing and the bleeding is minimal? Just like with the rest of the body, even the smallest infection can take a turn for the worse.
Bleeding of the gum tissues can be attributed to various causes with the main one being gum disease (periodontal disease). A mild form of this disease is gingivitis, which is an active disease of the gum tissues that not only causes bleeding, but inflammation as well. A more advanced form of gum disease is called periodontitis which not only causes bleeding and inflammation, but also progresses to deterioration of the bone itself, and once you lose bone structure, it does not return. If ignored, the bone can deteriorate to the point where teeth begin to become mobile.
Besides affecting just the mouth, periodontal disease can also affect the body systemically as well. Studies have been done to link periodontal disease with diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and even breast cancer. This is strong evidence which shows that the mouth is indeed a gateway to the rest of the body.
According to a 2009-2010 study by the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, one out of two adults over the age of 30 has periodontitis, the more advanced stage of periodontal disease. If around 47% of adults have periodontitis, how many more have gingivitis, the precursor to periodontitis?
There are ways to prevent gum disease, or if you have periodontitis, arrest it at its current stage. Brushing regularly after meals and flossing once nightly is a given, but also regular cleanings from your dental hygienist is every bit as important. The recommended intervals for cleanings would be every six months for a standard prophylaxis cleaning, and every three or four months for a periodontal maintenance if periodontal disease is present.
By practicing good home care habits, and continuing to follow up with your routine dental visits, you can eliminate any bleeding and substantially lower harmful periodontal bacteria levels to a point where there is no more bleeding.
Written by: Thomas Harless, RDH May 22, 2019