Do your gums bleed when you brush your teeth? This may be a seemingly innocent symptom 一 it may not even hurt 一 but bleeding gums can be a sign of gingivitis. Gingivitis is the earliest form of periodontal disease, also called gum disease.
Because gum disease can cause extensive damage to your mouth, including adult tooth loss, jawbone damage, and receding gums, it’s important to treat the condition while it’s still in its earliest stage.
Although periodontal disease is a serious condition, it’s important to focus on the positives: early gum disease is reversible. That’s why Kevin Miller, DDS, and our team at Dentistry in Paradise in Santa Barbara, California, encourage you to visit us as soon as you suspect you have it.
In the meantime, here’s what you need to know about the three stages of gum disease and how we can help you reverse gingivitis.
The stages of gum disease
Gingivitis 一 the first stage of gum disease 一 happens when your gingiva (gums) are swollen and inflamed. Gingivitis often forms as a result of bacteria and plaque accumulation. When bacteria-laden plaque irritates your delicate gum tissue, your gums bleed easily and appear red and puffy instead of pink and firm.
Untreated gingivitis can progress to the next phase of gum disease called periodontitis. During this stage, your gums pull away from your teeth and form periodontal pockets, creating a gap for bacteria and debris to accumulate and exacerbate your symptoms.
The severity of your periodontitis is determined by how wide the gap is. A periodontal pocket, for example, that measures between 5-7 millimeters indicates moderate periodontitis.
Advanced periodontitis is the third and final stage of gum disease. During this stage, your gums pull back significantly, the periodontal pockets grow bigger, your jawbone starts to deteriorate, and you may lose your teeth.
How to reverse gingivitis
Fortunately, you can reverse gum disease as long as you start during the earliest phase: gingivitis.
Fortify your at-home oral care
The best defense against gum disease is a good daily oral care routine. Your at-home routine should include:
- Brushing your teeth for two full minutes twice a day
- Holding your brush at a 45-degree angle to thoroughly brush along your gum line
- Using a toothpaste with fluoride
- Flossing regularly
- Rinsing with mouthwash to kill bacteria
- Avoiding sugary foods
In addition to mouthwash, you may also find that swishing with salt water helps reduce gum inflammation. Mix a teaspoon of salt into a cup of warm water and rinse your mouth for about 30 seconds.
Smoking can make gingivitis worse and increase your risk of developing periodontitis. If you smoke, quitting can help improve your overall physical health, improve your oral health, reduce your risk of oral cancer, and prevent further damage to your gums.
Get professional dental care
In addition to at-home care, professional dental care can help reverse gingivitis. Dr. Miller also may prescribe special mouthwash. For example, mouthwashes with chlorhexidine reduce redness, swelling, and bleeding. If needed, Dr. Miller may recommend or even prescribe a certain kind of toothpaste.
What if you don’t treat gingivitis in time?
If gingivitis evolves into periodontitis, you may need more complex treatment, including scaling and root planing. Also known as a deep cleaning, scaling and root planing involves removing any tartar and plaque buildup on your teeth, including on the roots. Then Dr. Miller smooths your roots, making it more difficult for bacteria to attach to your tooth roots.
Bleeding gums? Give us a call!
Early intervention is the best defense against gum disease. If your gums are red, or if you see bleeding when you brush your teeth, let us know. Call Dentistry in Paradise at 805-967-0272 or book your next appointment online. Don’t wait any longer to get the personalized dental care you need.