- Slideshow: Top Problems in Your Mouth
- Teeth Whiteners That Work
- Dental (Oral) Health Quiz
- Patient Comments: Gum Problems - Experience
- Patient Comments: Gum Problems - Causes
- Patient Comments: Gum Problems - Flossing
- Patient Comments: Gum Problems - Hormonal Changes
- Find a local Doctor in your town
- Gum health introduction
- What are common gum problems?
- What causes gum problems?
- What are the risk factors for gum problems?
- What are signs and symptoms of gum problems?
- How are gum problems diagnosed?
- Can gum problems be a sign of something serious?
- What is the treatment for gum problems? What are home remedies for gum problems?
- What are the complications with gum problems?
- What is the prognosis for gum problems?
- What is the best way to care for your gums?
- Is it possible to prevent gum problems?
Quick GuideTop Problems in Your Mouth
Gum health introduction
Our gums (or "gingiva") act as an important barrier in protecting our teeth and their surrounding support structures. A little known fact is that gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. Strong, healthy teeth are dependent on healthy gums. The main culprit for gum problems is bacteria in dental plaque. The bacteria in plaque produce harmful toxins that create an inflammatory process that occurs in the gum tissue. If left for a long enough period of time, bacterial plaque causes damage to our teeth as well as our gums.
What are common gum problems?
The most common gum problem is gingivitis and is found in over 50% of the adult U.S. population. Gingivitis is defined as inflammation of the gums. Signs of gum inflammation include bleeding during tooth-brushing, swollen-looking gums, and red gums. Healthy gums generally appear firm, coral-pink, and do not bleed with stimulation. Gums can appear dark from pigmentation in certain ethnic populations, and this is considered normal.
The second most common gum problem is gum disease, also called "periodontitis." More than 25% of the adult U.S. population suffers from gum disease. Periodontitis exhibits similar signs to gingivitis except it also can result in gum tissue and jawbone loss. The damage of periodontitis is particularly concerning in that the loss of gum tissue and bone loss cannot be recovered. Periodontitis typically progresses over time and may not produce painful symptoms until the disease reaches the later stages of damage. Unfortunately, this explains why gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss.
A common adult gum problem is gum recession. Gum recession is when the root of the tooth becomes exposed as gum pulls away from its original attachment. This could be a result of gum disease as the jawbone surrounding the teeth is lost. Wherever jawbone is lost, gums will follow, and this exposes the root of the tooth. Exposed roots can be sensitive to temperature, are more prone to decay, and can present a cosmetic concern. Other causes for gum recession include teeth grinding, use of chewing tobacco, brushing too aggressively, hereditary weak gums, orthodontic treatment, or trauma.
Another gum problem is a gum abscess (or "periodontal abscess"). It presents as a blister or a bump in the gum that contains pus. It is caused by a bacterial infection that takes place in a deep gum pocket and causes pain and swelling.