Q: I have been having bleeding gums for the past six weeks. Is it serious and do should I do to prevent it?

If you have bleeding gums, it might mean you have a condition called gingivitis. It is one of the most common diseases prevalent today. Almost 80 per cent of the human population seems to have it at some point in their lives. Fortunately, most of the time it is not serious and quite easily curable. However, bleeding gums can sometimes indicate other potentially serious disorders also.

Gingivitis is caused by the inflammation of the gums in response to the presence of bacterial plaque. Plaque is usually left behind because of incorrect brushing technique, lack of flossing or insufficient brushing time – which is two minutes if you use an electric toothbrush or around three minutes if you use a manual one. Most people brush around 45 seconds on average.

Other causes include the use of the wrong kind of toothbrush or malpositioned teeth. Hard bristles are not as flexible and hence do not clean as well as softer bristles, which reach into the nooks and crannies and clean out most plaque. A tooth which is locked behind others might also be left behind regardless of how long you take to brush. In these cases, an electric brush might be advantageous as the smaller head can be manoeuvred to fit and clean the hard-to-reach areas. Long term, some sort of tooth alignment might me a good idea to get the teeth to a more cleansable position. Also, overly aggressive brushing might cause bleeding!

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A single tooth which is constantly bleeding should be investigated. There is a possibility of tartar lodged inside that causes irritation and constant plaque accumulation. In these cases, a professional cleaning done by a dentist or a dental hygienist usually eliminates the source of the problem. It’s a good idea to take an X-ray as well for confirmation. Crowns and fillings which are defective or not well designed will also accumulate plaque and can potentially cause bleeding. These defective fillings or crowns must be changed. Please remember that all fillings, crowns, implants and bridges should be flossable to prevent plaque collection and allow for good hygiene. It’s also a good idea to ask your dentist or hygienist to show you the best way to brush. Circular motion, which was taught in the past, is not usually the best or most efficient way to brush.

Other conditions which may cause bleeding gums are pregnancy, leukaemia (blood cancer) and Vitamin C or K deficiency, which is extremely rare. Certain other cancers of the mouth might also cause bleeding gums.

As a final note, bleeding gums are common but not normal. Ignoring gingivitis means that it progresses to something called periodontitis. This condition is much more serious because the bone surrounding the teeth is lost and this can cause the teeth to fall out. Periodontitis is also much more difficult to treat and may be irreversible – hence the need for regular preventive check-ups. As they always say – an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

Tanveer Ahmed is an implantologist, dental surgeon and medical director at New Ivory Dental and Implant Clinic. Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to friday@gulfnews.com.

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