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Bleeding Gums-Is It Serious?

By Dr. Valerie Pereira

Picture this -You’re brushing your teeth thinking of the delicious dinner you ingested earlier. Suddenly, you feel a throbbing pain and notice a metallic taste in your mouth. You spit in the sink and the white foam is tinged with bright red blood.

In another scene-you decide to take the age-old adage seriously “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” But lo! As you sink your teeth into the juicy apple, you experience discomfort. The white apple flesh is stained with blood.

Has this ever happened to you?

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Bleeding Gums – The First Sign Of Gingivitis

More than 90% of the population worldwide experience bleeding gums at some point. Yes, the percentage is that high! Bleeding from the gums is the cardinal sign of gum disease and indicates inflammation. This is called Gingivitis and the most likely cause is plaque-induced. If left untreated, it will progress to difficulty in chewing, mobility of teeth, loss of underlying bone, and finally loss of teeth.

Causes of Bleeding Gums

a. Oral Hygiene
The common cause of bleeding is improper oral hygiene which leads to an accumulation of plaque and calculus. Calculus is a hard flint-like substance that accumulates at the base of the gums. This leads to gingivitis, and periodontitis (loss of bone and tissue).

b. Teeth
Decayed and crowded teeth, trauma or laceration by sharp objects, and hard toothbrushes can also be causes of bleeding. Very commonly, there is food lodgement after eating fibrous foods like meat. The material gets stuck in between the teeth and gums. Failure to floss can lead to gingival bleeding over some time.

c. Smoking
There’s an interesting aspect when it comes to smoking. Cigarettes contain nicotine that causes temporary vasoconstriction, which means that the blood vessels are narrowed, thereby decreasing or blocking the blood flow. Hence the underlying inflammation is masked, leading to no gingival bleeding. That doesn’t mean the disease is absent though; It’s actually quite the opposite! It means that the disease has progressed stealthily without the initial signs of bleeding and shows impaired wound healing.

If the person were to cease smoking, there’d be a noticeable change in bleeding gums. So, avoid smoking.

d. Systemic Factors
Several systemic factors affect the gums too, causing bleeding. The deficiency of Vitamin C and Vitamin K is a prime example. People suffering from diabetes and suppressed immune systems display bleeding gums as well. These people are at an increased risk for other infections too.

Pregnant women or women who consume Oral Contraceptive Pills are prone to bleeding gums attributed to increased hormones. Young children and teenagers may also be affected, especially girls while menstruating.

Sometimes, bleeding could be ascribed to the person taking anti-clotting drugs like Aspirin or Warfarin for heart diseases. It’s imperative to determine the exact cause of bleeding because severe bleeding can. It’s imperative to determine the exact cause of bleeding because severe bleeding can sometimes occur due to rare but serious diseases like Leukaemia and Haemophilia or Platelet disorders.

Treatment of Bleeding Gums

So what should be done?

Do not ignore bleeding gums. See a dentist immediately. The dentist will determine the exact cause of the bleeding and provide treatment. Treatment for gingival bleeding will include plaque and diet control, removal of calculus, correction/removal of any traumatic or irritating factors, counselling to stop smoking, and antimicrobial therapy.

What should not be done is blindly buying mouthwashes without understanding the underlying cause. Mouthwashes contain antiseptics that do reduce plaque and inflammation, but those are only to be used as an adjunctive treatment.

Treating the primary cause and mechanical oral hygiene is essential. Maintaining good oral hygiene is a must. And of course, you owe it to those delicious dinners and crunchy apples; to enjoy life to the fullest.

About the Author:

Dr. Valerie Anithra Pereira is a consultant dentist who specialises in Peridontics (gums). She has completed her BDS from AJ Institute of Dental Sciences, Mangalore. She then practiced at Narayana Hrudayalaya in Bangalore before going on to do her Masters in Periodontics and Implantology (MDS) at Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences in Coorg. She has worked as an Assistant Professor in Periodontology at Bhopal University and Maharashtra University of Health Sciences, Nashik She is available for consultation in Panjim, Goa.

She can be contacted on: 8208007184.

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