Swollen Gums
and
Gum Disease


Swollen gums or gingivitis is a common problem among the young and old and along with bleeding gums and gum sensitivity, is one of the first signs of gum disease


Plaque, a sticky layer of germs builds up around and between gums and teeth. If not removed, plaque builds up and can harden to form tartar. Once tartar has formed on the teeth, it makes bacteria harder to remove, even with regular brushing and flossing. Bacteria can break down the enamel in teeth and cause gum infection as it settles between gums and teeth.

Swollen gums can lead to periodontal disease or otherwise called gum disease. In its most advanced stages periodontal disease causes major damage to gums and bone that support the teeth, resulting in loose teeth that will most likely have to be extracted.


Aging and swollen gums

Gum disease is not a natural part of aging, but as we grow older we can become more susceptible to gingivitis and periodontitis for these reasons:

  • The natural production of saliva slows down.

  • Hormonal changes that occur with menopause can cause gums to be more sensitive

  • Osteoporosis may also affect the density of the bone that supports the teeth

  • Many medications can cause dry mouth, taste changes, or increase gum sensitivity

  • The body's ability to absorb nutrients from foods is reduced with age and can cause deficiencies that affect gum health


Gingivitis treatment

Swollen gums do not necessarily have to lead to loss of teeth. Brushing correctly twice a day and flossing are the best ways to prevent gingivitis. Follow these very important tips for preventing and treating gum infection:

  • Brushing is not always enough. If plaque builds up, only a dental hygienist can remove it. Have your teeth cleaned professionally every 6 months. If you are prone to plaque buildup, you should have a cleaning every 3 months.

  • Brush correctly. Brushing teeth too vigorously or using anything other than a very soft bristle brush, can irritate gums and damage tooth enamel.

  • Floss daily. Flossing removes debris and plaque from in between your teeth, where brushing can't. Floss gently, sliding the floss up and down between each tooth. Follow the natural curve, reaching below the gum line.

  • Keep your mouth moist. If you suffer from dry mouth drink water and sugarless drinks. Avoid caffeine drinks, they are drying. Sleep with a humidifier to reduce nighttime mouth dryness. Drink green tea, it stimulates saliva flow. Chew sugarless gum and candy; the sucking motion creates saliva. Use artificial saliva.

  • For those times that you have gum swelling due to a temporary problem such as a tiny piece of food getting stuck in a tight area or a small cut, a salt water mix works wonders. Once it is dislodged, rinse your mouth with a salt water solution made with 1 teaspoon sea salt in half cup of warm water, three times a day until swelling goes down. If the swelling doesn't subside within three days, go to your dentist.

  • Swollen gums could be a sign of vitamin C deficiency. Other vitamins and minerals important for healthy gums are: folic acid, calcium , and the B vitamins. Discuss the possibility of taking a daily multiple vitamin with your physician or dentist.

  • Quit smoking. Research shows that smoking may be the leading cause of gum disease


The connection between
periodontal disease and overall health

There is growing evidence connecting the condition of teeth and gums to general health. Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection and bacteria can enter the blood stream and travel to major organs and begin new infections.

Diabetes - We do know that people with diabetes have an increased risk of developing teeth and gum problems. When diabetes is out of control there is a higher risk for tooth decay and a lower resistance to infection which can lead to periodontal disease.

Osteoporosis - People with osteoporosis are at a higher risk of losing their teeth. Osteoporosis causes bones to lose their density. The jaw supports teeth. So if bone density in the jaw is low, teeth lose their anchor, and will eventually loosen and fall out or have to be extracted.

Heart disease - There is growing evidence that poor oral health is linked to hear disease. Researchers think that the bacteria in the mouth may cause inflammation in the heart and plaques buildup in the blood vessels.

Stroke - Studies show that adults with gum disease may have increased risk of a stroke.

Respiratory disease - Bacteria from gum disease can cause or worsen respiratory conditions such as emphysema and pneumonia. Bacteria in the mouth can be inhaled to the lower respiratory tract during normal breathing and settle there. This can cause bacterial infections or worsen existing lung conditions.

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