Ever been at the dentist for your yearly check-up, and have your gums bleed when they start looking in your mouth?
You probably have -- after all, it’s a common enough occurrence that the common response “your gums are bleeding because you don’t floss enough,” is often used as a punchline to several jokes floating around Facebook. However, just because it happens to a lot of people and it’s made light of doesn’t make it any less serious.
Gum bleeding is one of the first signs of serious gum disease, like gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is when your gums are swollen and sensitive, and more likely to bleed when probed. If left untreated, it can lead to periodontitis and tooth loss. Prevention is often the key to gingivitis -- if you brush your teeth frequently and correctly, you won’t need to worry. Periodontitis is sometimes considered advanced gingivitis in that it affects the teeth in much the same way, but needs more advanced treatment. Both are easily preventable, yet a lot of people choose to ignore the basic tooth-brushing ritual.
Of course, many dentists also tend to ignore the signs of gum bleeding and skip over discussing it as a serious symptom. In order to combat gum disease, we have to start with the very first symptom there is, and make it a serious thing. “Your gums are bleeding because you don’t floss enough,” shouldn’t be a punchline -- it should be the first sentence of a discussion about dental health and good habits.