If your hands bled when you washed them, you would be concerned. Bleeding always indicates disease. Yet, many people think it’s normal if their gums bleed when they brush or floss. In a 1999 study, researchers at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that half of Americans over 30 had bleeding gums. Recent studies have reported that almost 50% of the population in the United States has some form of periodontal disease. The disease is usually painless so we often don’t know we have it until very late.

Swollen and bleeding gums are early signs that your gums are infected with bacteria. If nothing is done, the infection can spread and destroy the structures that support your teeth in your jawbone and affect your health. Eventually, your teeth can become so loose that they have to be extracted. Other signs of periodontal disease include bad breath, gums that have receded from the tooth, loose or separated teeth and pus when you press on the gums.

“Perio” means around, and “dontal” refers to teeth. Periodontal diseases are infections of the structures around the teeth, which include the gums, periodontal ligament (which holds teeth in) and alveolar bone. In the earliest stage of periodontal disease — gingivitis — the infection affects the gums. In more severe forms of the disease, periodontitis– all of the tissues including the supporting bone of the teeth are involved.

Peri-implantitis refers to the same periodontal disease occurring on implants.

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