Craig S. Karriker, DMD, P.A.- 400 South Granard Street, Gaffney, SC 29341, (864) 487-0710

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By Craig S. Karriker, DMD, PA
May 22, 2014
Category: Oral Health
TakeCareofYourGumsandTheyWillTakeCareofYou

If your gums appear reddish, puffy and bleed easily — especially at the margins where they meet your teeth — instead of their normal pink, you have gingivitis (“gingiva” – gums; “itis” – inflammation). Gingivitis is one of the first signs of periodontal disease (“peri” – around; “odont” – tooth) that affects the tissues that attach to the teeth, the gums, periodontal ligament and bone. Other common symptoms of periodontal disease include bad breath and taste.

If periodontal (gum) disease is allowed to progress, one possible consequence is gum recession exposing the root surfaces of the teeth. This can cause sensitivity to temperature and touch. Another sign is that the gum tissues may start to separate from your teeth, causing pocket formation; this is detectable by your dentist or hygienist. As pocket formation progresses the bone supporting the teeth is destroyed leading to loose teeth and/or gum abscesses. Unchecked or untreated it leads to tooth loss.

Inflammation, a primary response to infection is actually your immune (resistance) system's way of mounting a defense against dental plaque, the film of bacteria that concentrates between your teeth and gums every day. If the bacteria are not removed, the inflammation and infection become chronic, which literally means, “frustrated healing.” Smoking is a risk factor for periodontal disease. Smokers collect plaque more quickly and have drier mouths, therefore, cutting down or quitting smoking can reduce the severity of gum disease. Stress has also been shown to affect the immune (resistance) system, so stress reduction practices can help here as well as in other parts of your life. Gum disease can also affect your general health especially if you have diabetes, cardiovascular or other systemic (general) diseases of an inflammatory nature.

Periodontal disease is easily preventable. The best way to stop the process is to remove each day's buildup of plaque by properly brushing and flossing your teeth. Effective daily dental hygiene has been demonstrated to be effective in stopping gingivitis. It sounds simple, but although most people think they're doing a good job, they may not be. Effective brushing and flossing requires demonstration and training. Come and see us for an evaluation of how well you're doing. Regular checkups and cleanings with our office are necessary to help prevent gingivitis and periodontal disease. In addition if you already have periodontal disease you may need a deep cleaning known as root planing or debridement to remove deposits of calcified plaque called calculus or tartar, along with bacterial toxins that have become ingrained into the root surfaces of your teeth.

Gum disease is often known as a silent disease because it doesn't hurt, so see our office for a periodontal exam today.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment or to discuss your questions about gingivitis and periodontal disease. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Understanding Gum (Periodontal) Disease.”

By Craig S. Karriker, DMD, PA
October 18, 2013
Category: Oral Health
KeepYourGumsinthePink

Being “in the pink” is a good thing; it means you're healthy. Being “in the red” is not so good; it means your health is questionable (financially, anyway). Though they weren't coined for dentistry per se, these colorful expressions are helpful reminders when it comes to taking care of your gums: Pink is their natural, healthy color; that's what you want to see every time you look in the mirror. Red is generally a warning that something's amiss.

If your gums, or “gingiva,” appear slightly swollen and reddened at the margins and/or they bleed when lightly prodded by brushing or flossing, it's likely that you have gingivitis. This is an immune response to the buildup of bacterial plaque (biofilm) at your gum line. It is also an early red flag for periodontal disease (peri – around, odont – tooth), a degenerative process that affects not only the gums, but the periodontal ligament that attaches each tooth in its bony socket, and the underlying supporting bone.

Attentive home dental hygiene practices prevent most plaque buildup from occurring. Brushing correctly at the gum line is a good start. But even a deftly handled brush can't reach everywhere, so it's important to use dental floss or specially designed mini-brushes to get in between teeth and other hard-to-reach areas. Our office can instruct you on optimal home care techniques. We also encourage you to visit at regular intervals for professional cleanings so you are assured of addressing anything home care might miss.

In the absence of good oral hygiene, dental plaque can build and become increasingly difficult to remove as it calcifies, becoming tartar. It becomes a breeding ground for disease-causing microbes that normally wouldn't have the chance to gain a foothold. When caught early, gingivitis can be treated before any harm is done. Sometimes a thorough professional cleaning is sufficient. If the problem is ignored, however, the disease will most certainly progress to destruction of the surrounding, supporting tissues — the periodontal ligament and the underlying bone. If this happens, tooth loss could eventually result.

That said, there can be other causes for bleeding gums. These include:

  • Brushing too rigorously or using a toothbrush with bristles that are too firm
  • Side effect of a medication
  • In women, elevated hormone levels (e.g., birth control pills or pregnancy)
  • A systemic (bodily) disease

Whatever the reason, red is not normal when it comes to your gums. The sooner you discover the underlying reason(s) for inflammation or bleeding and take appropriate action, you and your smile will be back in the pink and you'll have no reason to be blue!

If you would like more information about preventing or treating bleeding gums, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Bleeding Gums.”

By Craig S. Karriker, DMD, PA
December 14, 2012
Category: Oral Health
AreYouatAdvancedRiskforGumDisease

Gum disease, also called periodontal disease (from the roots for “around” and “tooth”) starts with redness and inflammation, progresses to infection, and can lead to progressive loss of attachment between the fibers that connect the bone and gum tissues to your teeth, ultimately causing loss of teeth. Here are some ways to assess your risk for gum disease.

Your risk for developing periodontal disease is higher if:

  1. You are over 40.
    Studies have shown that periodontal disease and tooth loss correlate with aging. The longer plaque (a film of bacteria that collects on your teeth and gums) is allowed to stay in contact with your gums, the more you are at risk for periodontal disease. This means that brushing and flossing to remove plaque is important throughout your lifetime. To make sure you are removing plaque effectively, come into our office for an evaluation of your brushing and flossing techniques.
  2. You have a family history of gum disease.
    If gum disease seems to “run in your family,” you may be genetically predisposed to having this disease. Your vulnerability or resistance to gum disease is influenced by genetics. The problem with this assessment is that if your parents were never treated for gum disease or lacked proper instruction in preventative strategies and care, their susceptibility to the disease is difficult to accurately quantify.
  3. You smoke or chew tobacco.
    Here's more bad news for smokers. If you smoke or chew tobacco you are at much greater risk for the development and progression of periodontal disease. Smokers' teeth tend to have more plaque and tartar while also having them form more quickly.
  4. You are a woman.
    Hormonal fluctuations during a woman's lifetime tend to make her more susceptible to gum disease than men, even if she takes good care of her teeth.
  5. You have ongoing health conditions such as heart disease, respiratory disease, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, high stress, or diabetes.
    Research has shown a connection between these conditions and periodontal disease. The bacteria can pass into the blood stream and move to other parts of the body. Gum disease has also been connected with premature birth and low birth weight in babies.
  6. Your gums bleed when you brush or floss.
    Healthy gums do not bleed. If yours do, you may already have the beginnings of gum disease.
  7. You are getting “long in the tooth.”
    If your teeth appear longer, you may have advancing gum disease. This means that infection has caused your gum tissue to recede away from your teeth.
  8. Your teeth have been getting loose.
    Advancing gum disease results in greater bone loss that is needed to support and hold your teeth in place. Loose teeth are a sign that you have a serious problem with periodontal disease.

Even with indications of serious periodontal disease, it can still be stopped. Make an appointment with us today to assess your risks. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Assessing Risk for Gum Disease.”

By Craig S. Karriker, DMD, PA
July 17, 2012
Category: Oral Health
LearntheSignsofPeriodontalDisease

Periodontal (gum) diseases are sometimes called “silent” because those who have them may not experience painful symptoms. But certain signs point to the existence of these common diseases. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, it is time to visit our office so these problems can be treated before they lead to serious infection and loss of teeth.

Gums that bleed during the brushing of teeth. Some people think that gums bleed from brushing too hard. In fact, healthy gum tissues will not bleed with normal brushing. The usual cause of bleeding gums is an accumulation of dental plaque in the areas where your teeth meet your gums. Plaque is a film of bacteria, called a biofilm, which accumulates on your teeth. If you are not brushing and flossing effectively, plaque irritates your gum tissues and causes an inflammation and swelling called gingivitis. This causes your gums to bleed easily on contact with a toothbrush or floss.

Gum tissues that appear red and swollen. If plaque is allowed to accumulate for 24 hours or more, the inflammation in your gum tissues becomes chronic. The continuous presence of bacteria makes it impossible for your body's natural defenses to fight the infection. Chronic inflammation leads to a breakdown of the normal attachment between the teeth and the gums, causing the formation of “pockets.” Inside these pockets the infection continues to attack the tissues that support your teeth. Eventually this can lead to a breakdown of the bone that surrounds your teeth.

Bad breath. Bad breath is another sign of accumulated plaque. The bacteria in plaque may emit gases that have an unpleasant odor.

Gums that are sensitive to hot or cold. Chronic inflammation can also cause the gums to recede, exposing the roots of the teeth in which nerves may be close to the surface, leading to sensitivity to heat and cold.

Teeth that are getting loose, or a painful area in the gums. If you experience these symptoms, the infection has progressed a long way from the “silent” stage. It is time to seek immediate professional help.

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, a professional dental examination is in order. With daily removal of plaque by effective brushing and flossing, along with frequent professional cleanings to remove any plaque that you were unable to catch, you will go a long way to preventing periodontal disease. Also, be aware that smoking tends to mask the effects of gum disease. Generally, if you smoke your gums will not bleed when brushing or flossing, nor will they show signs of swelling.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about gum disease. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Bleeding Gums” and “Warning Signs of Periodontal (Gum) Disease.”