David B. Sandquist DDS | Douglas D. Sandquist DDS

Gum Disease- Frequently Asked Questions

My gums bleed when I brush and floss. Isn’t that normal?

No. The gums that surround and support the teeth are very durable and when healthy can withstand normal brushing and flossing. Bleeding gums are one of the signs of gum disease. Think of gum tissue as the skin on your hand. If your hands bled every time you washed them, you would know something was wrong. There are a number of other warning signs of gum disease.

What is Periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease is a serious chronic bacterial infection that attacks and destroys the gums and bone that hold your teeth in place.  The word periodontal literally means “around the tooth.” Periodontal disease can affect one tooth or many teeth.

Infection occurs when dental plaque, a sticky sometimes colorless film, accumulates on the surfaces of teeth. The bacteria in the plaque produce chemicals that can affect the gums, causing them to swell and bleed.

In the early stage of periodontal disease, called gingivitis, the gums can become red, swollen and bleed easily. At this stage, the disease is still reversible and can usually be eliminated by routine dental cleanings and daily brushing and flossing.

If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis. Over time, plaque can spread below the gum line. The toxins produced by the bacteria in the plaque irritate the gums and stimulate a chronic inflammatory response in which the body essentially breaks down and destroys the bone and gum that surround the teeth. When this supporting tissue and bone is destroyed, pockets form around the teeth. As the disease advances, these pockets become deeper, providing ever-growing spaces in which plaque accumulates and bacteria can spread, making the disease a major cause of tooth and bone loss. Periodontitis is a chronic, but treatable disease. With proper treatment, patients have a better chance of saving their teeth and prohibiting further disease progression.

In addition to complications from potential tooth loss and surgery, recent studies suggest that oral diseases may have significant effects on general health. These studies show that there is a possible relationship between periodontal infection and cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and increased incidence of pre-term, low-birth weight babies.

What are pockets? 

Your bone and gum tissue should fit snugly around your teeth like a turtleneck around your neck. When you have periodontal disease, this supporting tissue and bone is destroyed, forming “pockets” around the teeth. Over time, these pockets become deeper, providing a larger space in which bacteria can live. As bacteria develop around the teeth, they can accumulate and advance under the gum tissue. These deep pockets collect even more bacteria, resulting in further bone and tissue loss. Eventually, if too much bone is lost, the teeth will need to be extracted.

What are the warning signs of Gum Disease?

  • Do you ever have pain in your mouth?
  • Do your gums ever bleed when you brush your teeth or when you eat hard food?
  • Have you noticed any spaces developing between your teeth?
  • Do your gums ever feel swollen or tender?
  • Have you noticed that your gums are receding (pulling back from your teeth) or your teeth appear longer than before?
  • Do you have persistent bad breath?
  • Have you noticed pus between your teeth and gums?
  • Have you noticed any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite?
  • Do you ever develop sores in your mouth?

Many of the patients that have early to moderate periodontal disease have not reported any of of the signs listed above. Periodontal disease in the early stages is virtually undetectable. Routine visits and hygiene appointments can keep this devastating disease in check.