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Inflamed Gums 101: Signs, Causes and Prevention

Mary West

Inflammation of the gums is a health problem that should be taken seriously. When the condition persists over an extended period, it can lead to periodontal disease and potential tooth loss and can be associated with a potential risk of heart attack and/or stroke, warns the Mayo Clinic. In light of the consequences, it is a good idea to be able to recognize the signs and to be familiar with the causes. Most importantly, knowing what to do to prevent inflamed gums can spare you and your family the suffering that comes with this oral care issue.

What Are the Signs of Inflamed Gums?

The American Dental Association lists signs of inflammation of the gums that let you know it is time to visit your dentist. These symptoms include red, swollen and tender gums as well as gums that bleed when you brush, floss and eat crunchy or hard food. Other symptoms include mouth sores, bad breath and gum tissue that is not adherent to the tooth or that may be recessed and pulled away from the teeth.

What Are the Causes?

Gum disease is most often caused by the development of plaque, which is a sticky film that continually forms on your teeth and at the gum line. Because plaque contains bacteria that release harmful toxins, it will irritate your gums if it is not removed. When left untreated, the inflamed gum tissue may become recessed and pocket formation may develop and continue to trap plaque below the gum line. This complication further irritates the tissue. If you don't take steps to stop this process, it will continue until it destroys bone and other tooth-supporting tissues.

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, the main cause of inflammation of the gums is plaque, but other factors may contribute to this issue or increase the likelihood of its development. Stress, poor nutrition, tobacco use, obesity and being over the age of 65 increase your risk. If you have a disease that affects your body's inflammatory system, or if you clench and grind your teeth, you are at risk of developing a more severe case.

How to Prevent Inflamed Gums

The main thing you can do to avoid this condition is prevent the buildup of plaque by thorough teeth brushing twice a day and flossing once a day before bedtime. You can also use an antimicrobial mouthwash. Even if you regularly practice good oral care, some plaque may harden and form a rough deposit called tartar, which can be removed only by a professional cleaning conducted by the dental hygienist at a dental or specialty practice. Regular visits to your dentist are important because he can check for signs of inflamed gums and make recommendations to put you on the right track to a healthy mouth. In addition to keeping your teeth clean, avoid tobacco and follow a healthy diet.

Watching for signs of inflammation of the gums will help you decide when to see a dentist to find out if further treatment is needed. Knowing the causes of the condition will assist you in avoiding or quitting habits that will make it worse. The good news is that, except in unusual cases, inflamed gums can be prevented by pursuing good oral hygiene practices at home and receiving professional cleanings every 6 months.

Learn more about gum disease in the Colgate Oral Care resources.

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