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Gum Problems


Gum Problems

Healthy gumsClick here to see an illustration. are pink and firm and do not bleed easily. Occasionally gum bleeding occurs if you brush your teeth and gums too hard with a hard-bristled toothbrush or snap dental floss hard against your gums. Using a soft-bristled tooth brush and flossing carefully can prevent the problem.

Early-stage gum disease (gingivitisClick here to see an illustration.) causes red, swollen gums that bleed easily when brushed. Because gingivitis usually doesn't cause pain, many people delay treatment. If not treated, gum disease can cause more serious problems with the gum tissue.

As gum disease progresses, the gums pull away from the teeth, leaving deep pockets where plaque can hide and cause further damage. This stage of gum disease is called periodontitis or periodontal diseaseClick here to see an illustration. and is caused by an infection of the gums, bone, and other tissues that surround and support the teeth. Periodontitis can progress until it causes damage to the bones that support the teeth. In this late stage, teeth may become loose and fall out or need to be removed. It is important to treat gum disease early because it gets harder to treat as it becomes more severe.

Other causes of gum bleeding, swelling, and pain include:

  • Pregnancy, blood-thinning medicines, or bleeding disorders. These can cause gums to bleed easily.
  • Lack of vitamins, such as vitamin K or vitamin C, or medical problems, such as anemia, that interfere with the body's ability to absorb certain vitamins.
  • Teething in babies and young children.
  • Dentures or a dental appliance that irritates the gums.
  • A "gum boil" or infection around the root of the tooth. Swelling and redness, sometimes with pus, may appear at the base of a tooth.
  • Diseases of the blood cells, such as leukemia. This is rare.

Many medicines can cause gum problems. If you suspect a medicine is the cause of your gum problem, call the doctor who prescribed the medicine to determine whether you should stop taking it or take a different one. An appointment may not be necessary. If you are taking a nonprescription medicine, stop taking it. Call your doctor if you feel you need to continue the medicine.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerH. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last RevisedNovember 4, 2010

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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