Check Up: Why are her gums bleeding?
J.S. is a 52-year-old female writer who lives in Spanish Town and says she is looking out for Check Up to address her problem.
Whenever she brushes her teeth, they bleed and her gums do, too. When she wakes in the mornings and spits, she sees blood in her saliva and if she drinks anything hot or cold it affects her teeth.
At times her gums swell and pain her. She writes, "Please help me by telling me how to treat this problem".
Sore gums which are accompanied with bleeding and redness are often symptoms of gingivitis (inflammation of the gums). Soreness can be accompanied by swelling of the gum tissues.
This condition has several different causes but most commonly occurs as a result of plaque build-up on the teeth near the gums.
This is the yellow material which develops where the teeth meet the gums and can harden to become tartar. Hard tartar worsens the condition and as time progresses, will result in receding gums, tooth loss and even damage to the jaw bones.
Bleeding from the gums can also occur in people who use blood thinners like Warfarin for any reason, and this includes aspirin use in some people.
Other people who suffer with chronic diseases, like HIV or diabetes, which can diminish the immune system functions are also more likely to develop gingivitis and its associated symptoms.
Bleeding, sore and swollen gums can also occur in the mouths of people who overfloss. The gums are cut, feel sore and bleed.
No matter what is causing the swollen bleeding gums, there are things you can do to reduce the problem.
THINGS TO REDUCE THE PROBLEMS
- Choose a soft, nylon bristle toothbrush, as medium or hard bristle toothbrushes will worsen the problem.
- Vigorous brushing will worsen the problem. Use a gentle, circular motion to massage and clean rather than the vertical or horizontal back-and-forth motion which will irritate the gums and make the redness and swelling worse.
- Brush the teeth several times daily, after all meals and before going to bed.
- Flossing will remove plaques from places the toothbrushes cannot reach. Take time to floss properly but not vigorously.
- Rinse with mouthwash daily.
- Take vitamin C and calcium supplements.
- Avoid candy, sodas and other acidic foods.
Seek dental attention if you have several of the following symptoms:
- Loose or shifting teeth.
- Loose pockets between the teeth and gums.
- Gums that bleed during and after tooth brushing.
- Receding gums.
- Bad breath.
- Tender swollen gums.
When gingivitis is caught early, it can be reversed and healed with proper oral hygiene. When left untreated gingivitis will worsen, progressing to periodontitis and can ultimately cause tooth loss.
Some cigarette smokers as well as persons receiving chemotherapy treatment for cancer may also develop painful, sore and bleeding gums.
When gum problems are present, you need to be very cautious about eating hot or cold products. Lukewarm or cool foods and drinks are best.
With gum infection, the gums may pull away from the teeth and expose the roots or the teeth, which are not coated with resistant tooth enamel (only the upper tooth is coated).
The roots are very sensitive and react with pain sensation to hot or cold temperatures. Grinding the teeth at night time can also cause sensitive teeth.
Hospitals like Spanish Town Hospital, Kingston Public Hospital and the University Hospital of the West Indies have dental clinics, which are inexpensive to attend.