On a usual weekday morning, you’re brushing your teeth with your eyes still half closed as part of your morning routine…until you spit out and see red mixed in with the toothpaste foam. Do you shrug it off thinking you may have just hurt yourself with the bristles…or something?? Don’t shrug it off!! Bleeding from brushing or flossing is a red flag, a loud siren, your body’s warning sign!!!
Seventy-five percent of Americans harbor bacteria under their gum-lines, causing the gums to bleed, and to become puffy, red and tender. Where does the bacteria come from? We all have natural bacteria in our mouths, but we don’t always clean it out properly (or have it cleaned out regularly by getting a professional cleaning). Bacteria gather at the gum line, especially in between teeth, where it is darker, moister, and less likely to be bothered (i.e flossed :)). They build a white filmy paste that helps them cling to the tooth–also known as plaque. Over time the plaque calcifies as it comes in contact with natural calcium and phosphates in our saliva. Bacteria/plaque/tartar release acids when they digest left-over foods that pass through the mouth.’the body responds by sending its defense forces (blood) to kill the bacteria. This is the beginning of the dreaded thing we dentists like to call gum disease.
Gum disease is a silent problem–there is no pain involved and sometimes none of the other symptoms are detectable until a health professional does a thorough exam. Studies have linked it to overall health issues such as heart problems and low birth weight in pregnant women as well.
Here is a picture of healthy gums vs. infected gums:
Every tooth is held in place by bone, which is covered by a collar of gum. Only about 1-3mm of that collar of gum is “free” or not attached to the tooth and bone. After that 3 mm marking, the gum should be “attached”–literally stuck very firmly to the tooth and bone. When a dentist or hygienist measures your gums, he or she is checking this level of attachment. If the probe drops down more than 3 mm, attachment loss due to bacteria has occurred. These measurements will be recorded as a baseline for the records.
Okay, so that was probably TMI, but here’s the deal: you can do something about gum disease. A scaling and root planing (otherwise known as “deep cleaning” will get rid of all that bacteria and allow for re-attachment of the gums. Most patients notice a huge difference in the appearance of their gums and elimination of bleeding 24 hours after treatment. The health of your mouth and even your general well being will be much improved. Moreover, you’ll probably be motivated to floss more to prevent bacterial build up again.