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NEWS | Aug. 13, 2009

Bleeding gums – A silent warning?

By Senior Airman Ebony Holt 437th Medical Group

We've all experienced the results of overaggressive flossing - the accidental "snap" of the floss between the teeth and the ensuing presence of blood on the floss or toothbrush.

It happens and it's okay, but what if your gums bleed every time you floss? Every time you brush? What if your gums are red, swollen or tender? Is this okay? These may actually be symptoms of a more serious condition known as periodontal or gum disease.

As defined by the American Dental Association, periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth. It is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. Because periodontal disease is usually painless, you may not even know you have it. Periodontal disease is caused by plaque, a sticky film of bacteria which constantly forms on the teeth, which can damage the gums.

In the early stages, the gums are red, swollen and bleed easily. It can be treated and prevented with good oral hygiene and regular dental checkups. In the advanced stages, the gums worsen and the bone supporting the teeth becomes involved leading to loose teeth, which may fall out or have to be removed by a dentist.

Everyone plays a major role in the prevention of periodontal disease. The American Dental Association recommends the following to keep your teeth and gums healthy:

- Brush well twice a day with an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste. This removes the film of bacteria from the teeth.

- Replace your toothbrush every three to four months or sooner if the bristles are frayed. A worn toothbrush won't do a good job of cleaning your teeth.

- Clean between teeth every day with floss. Decay-causing bacteria still lingers between teeth where toothbrush bristles can't reach. This helps remove plaque and food particles from between the teeth and under the gum line.

Individuals who do not floss regularly may experience bleeding the first few times they floss.

"Keep flossing as the bleeding should stop within four to five days," said Dr. Courtney Schapira, a general dentist at Deily Dental Clinic.

If it does not, contact your dentist. There may be an underlying cause and periodontal disease could be it.

It is possible to have periodontal disease and have no warning signs. This is one reason why regular dental checkups and periodontal examinations are very important.

Treatment methods vary person to person depending on the severity of the disease and good oral hygiene at home is essential to help keep periodontal disease from becoming a more serious or recurring condition.

Studies now show a link between periodontal disease and heart disease, diabetes, stroke and even pre-mature births. Maintaining good oral health is proven to contribute to living a longer, healthier life. Brush, clean between your teeth, eat a balanced diet, and schedule regular dental visits for a lifetime of healthy smiles.

For more information contact the Deily Dental Clinic at 963-6880.