Bleeding Gums can be sign of a larger problem, beware!

According to a study published in the Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry in 2016, nearly 95% of Indians suffer from one or the other variety of periodontal diseases or a disease of the gums (Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov). Periodontal diseases vary in nature, but the most common condition being bleeding gums.

Causes and Risk factors

There are various reasons some people are more prone to bleeding gums than others:

  • Poor oral hygiene: One of the most common reasons in rural and semi-rural areas, improper or infrequent brushing of teeth can hasten the build-up of plaque and trigger bleeding in gums.
  • Poor nutrition: More prevalent in lower classes of the society, poor nutrition leads to insufficient or improper growth of jaw bones or gum tissue rendering them weak and more prone to bleeding gums with age.
  • Age: In spite of good oral hygiene and nutrition, advancing age can also trigger bleeding gums, especially after 60 years of age.
  • Stress: Irrespective of the above parameters, severe stress can trigger various ailments including periodontal diseases. Stress in general reduces the person's immunity levels and his/her ability to fight infection.
  • Some medications: Oral contraceptives and medicines used to treat heart ailments or depression can also trigger bleeding in the gums. Check with your doctor and discontinue the medication if recommended.
  • Bruxism: Some people have the habit of clenching or grinding their teeth when stressed and this condition is called bruxism. Bruxism can damage teeth, and also trigger bleeding in gums.
  • Chewing Tobacco: Chewing tobacco in the raw form or pan gutkha can damage your gums and trigger bleeding in the gums over time.
  • Genetic disposition: All the above reasons notwithstanding, some people are prone to bleeding gums than others for genetic reasons. If you have tested negative for all the above conditions, then check with your doctor and have a genetic assessment done.

Ailments that cause bleeding gums

In addition to the above causes, there are many ailments that trigger bleeding gums for a variety of pathological reasons. Some of these ailments are:

  • Related to reproductive health: Puberty, Pregnancy, Menopause and HIV infection
  • Related to diet and nutrition: Vitamin deficiency, Cirrhosis of the liver and Hyperparathyroidism
  • Related to the blood: Anemia, Leukemia, clotting factor deficiency, Von Willebrand's disease and Thrombocytopenia

Consequences of gum diseases on your general health

  • Medical research has shown a clear association between inflammation caused by gum diseases and other ailments such as:
  • Diabetes: Advancing gum disease causes increased resistance of body tissue to insulin, thereby leading to high blood glucose levels.
  • Heart related: Periodontitis triggers bio-chemical changes such as damage to endothelial tissue, cytokine production and thrombus formation. This in turn leads to Atherosclerosis (Coronary heart disease) and Myocardial infarction.
  • Breathing related:Bacteria present in periodontal tissues can change the nature of the mucosal tissues, increasing the risk of infection, and hence acute respiratory infection as well as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
  • Brain strokes:Periodontitis is known to trigger aggregation of platelets and hence coagulabilty of blood. Over time, this can trigger brain strokes.
  • Pregnancy related:Periodontitis is known to cause infections in the amnion or the inner-most membrane of the embryo. It's also known to inhibit estradiol and progesterone production in the mother. All these lead to premature birth and low-birth weight of the infant.

Treating and managing Bleeding of gums

  • Professional cleaning of teeth: If severe plaque formation is the cause for bleeding gums, your dentist will undertake a thorough cleaning called as Oral Prophylaxis.
  • Surgery: If the condition is severe and has spread to the bone, then surgical procedures such as gingival curettage and flap surgery are done. Here, the infected tissues are removed and the remaining tissues are maintained in good condition through proper brushing by the patient, and professional cleaning every 6 months.
  • Medication: Gum bleeding caused by medical conditions is treated through medication.

Conclusion

Bleeding in the gums is a rather serious condition and should not be dismissed easily. Please consult a reputed dentist who will apprise you of the risks and undertake necessary action.

Article by Dr. Rakesh, BDS
Consultant Dental Surgeon and Implantologist
Kauvery Hospital

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