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Note from Smiles Dental: This post was written by guest blogger and Smiles Dental mom, Monique Tindall. She hopes that by sharing her personal dental stories, other parents will understand the importance of dental health for their kids. Her articles take a look at the humorous side of teeth-brushing and dentist visits. Thanks for reading!

Over the past six months I have asked people if they are concerned when their gums bleed. The answers were varying, but most people said they would not be alarmed.

As I talked with dentists about this phenomenon and their experience with patients, they found it quite common. It turns out, often people don’t think they need to see a dentist — even when their gums are bleeding and swollen!

If we look at this from a different angle, the responses can be quite different. Just ask yourself, “If you were to rub your eye and blood came out, would you go to the doctor?” Your reply would probably be, “Of course!”

So why is it that if our gums are swollen and bleeding, so many people are desensitized to the health problem this symptom is alerting us to? Here are some theories I gathered in my conversations:

One Theory: As kids we lose teeth and bite our lips and cheeks, so blood in the mouth is not a cause for alarm. The theory is that it is normal to have some blood in our mouths, so there is no reason for immediate concern. Teeth fall out, lips get bumped, and cheeks get bitten; blood in the mouth feels the same as a scrape on the knee and is not alarming.

Another Theory: There is a lack of education on what the symptom of bleeding gums means. Due to the theory above, people just don’t understand the implications of swollen and bleeding gums. We teach good oral health in school and place the greatest emphasis on avoiding cavities, while ignoring the other signs of poor oral hygiene.

Following the logic of a lack of education, I found some interesting statistics: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding periodontal disease and dental health, 42.7 percent of adults older than 30 have some form of periodontal disease, and nearly 40 percent of adults fail to visit a dentist at least once a year.

To continue with the education, here are some facts about some of the root causes of bleeding gums:

1. You may have gingivitis. Painless and virtually symptom-free, gingivitis is easily overlooked unless you notice bloodstains on your toothbrush or dental floss. Gingivitis is an often ignored disease because it’s not painful. If left untreated, however, gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease, a critical oral condition characterized by the destruction of gum tissue and tooth loss.

2. Smoking increases the risk of periodontal disease. Inhaled smoke can leave irritating toxins on the teeth that can be difficult to remove through oral hygiene. These unhealthy substances can cause the gums to become aggravated and to bleed.

3. You may be using the wrong toothbrush. Your gum tissue is sensitive and using a hard toothbrush can aggravate the tissue, causing it to bleed. Try switching to a soft-bristled toothbrush. Brush your teeth twice a day and continue to floss daily. Good oral care is your best prevention against gingivitis and periodontal disease.

Next time you notice swollen and bleeding gums, remember this can be an indication of disease. Be sure to check in with your dentist when these signs are visible. Your overall health and smile are counting on it.