What is gum disease?  With bleeding gums the primary sign, many US adults have gum disease in some variation.  Gum and periodontal disease can range from minor gum irritation and inflammation, to mild and moderate cases where gums bleed from brushing and flossing, and to serious issues that involve soft tissue damage and loss of bone that supports the teeth.  In severe cases, otherwise healthy teeth with no tooth decay become mobile and are lost due to bone loss.

Bleeding gums in dentist bellevue wa

Bleeding Gums and Gum Disease


Bacteria is present everywhere, including in our mouth and gums.  Bacteria, combined with mucous and food particles, form a foamy and sticky plaque “buildup” on teeth.  If plaque is not removed, the plaque can harden and form a hard “tartar” layer that brushing and flossing cannot clean off.  When such tartar or “calculus” is formed, only your dentist and dental hygienist can remove the tartar.


It’s inevitable plaque are on teeth due to our daily intake of food.  If plaque are left on teeth and gums for a sustained period of time, they become harmful.  Oral bacteria can cause gum inflammation called “gingivitis” and hence bleeding gums may result.  With gingivitis, gums become inflamed, swollen, red, and bleed easily from a light touch.  With gingivitis, this form of gum disease does not involve bone loss and hard tissue loss that support the teeth in place.

Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease.  With adequate oral hygiene (daily brushing and flossing) and regular 6 month dental checkups and cleanings by a dentist or dental hygienist, it can be improved and even reversed.


If bleeding gums and gingivitis is left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontal disease (also known as periodontitis), where the supporting bone structure has diminished and is lost (bone loss has occurred).  With periodontal disease the gums adjacent to the teeth shrink away from teeth and form enlarged spaces that are infected.  This infected space are called “pockets.”  Bacteria toxins in the periodontal pockets begin to destroy and break down bone structures that hold teeth firmly in place.  If these pockets are not treated properly and allowed to increase in space, the gum and bone that support the teeth are compromised and may be destroyed.  Eventually the teeth may become mobile, loose, and need to be removed.


  • Smoking.  Cigarette smoking is one of the biggest risk factors associated with gingivitis and periodontitis.
  • Oral hygiene.  Food plaque and bacteria trapped between teeth is another significant risk factor for gum disease.  Without proper daily cleansing, periodontal pockets between teeth can increase and cause periodontitis.
  • Diabetes.  Diabetics in general have a greater chance for developing system and oral infections, which includes gum disease.
  • Medications.  Some prescription and over the counter medications can reduce salivary flow, which in turn causes dry mouth.  Saliva has a protective effect on the gums and teeth.  Insufficient saliva makes the mouth susceptible to gum infections, gum disease, and tooth decay.  Some medications, especially prescription ones, may also cause excessive gum tissue overgrowth and inflammation.
  • Pregnancy.  Hormonal changes can cause gingival sensitivity and make females more susceptible to developing gingivitis and cause bleeding gums.
  • Genetics.  Due to genetic variances, some people are more likely to develop gum disease.


Those who have gum disease tend to be in their 30s and 40s years of age, though people can develop gingivitis as early as late teens.  Males are more prone to gum disease than females, while teenagers typically do not have periodontitis.  Nonetheless, excessive plaque buildup left along the gum is the main cause of gum disease.

Your dentist, dental hygienist, or dental assistant may take digital x-rays to assess if there is bone loss (periodontitis).  Your dentist or dental hygienist will also perform a periodontal probing assessment and take gum measurements of periodontal pockets.


Gum disease symptoms can include:

  • Bleeding gums
  • Puffy inflamed gums
  • Gums that are tender and painful to touch
  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Hurts to chew
  • Loose sensitive teeth
  • Gingival recession


The overall and main of periodontal treatment is to control the infection, either by elimination or reduction.  The exact treatment type may vary depending on severity of the gum disease, and is individually catered to the patient.  All treatment require patients to have good daily home care.  Your dentist may also recommend behavior changes such as smoking cessation or possible change in medication to improve outcome.


Your dentist, dental hygienist, or periodontist removes plaque and hardened tartar (calculus) via scaling and root planing, a specialized more thorough type of dental cleaning.  Scaling involves  removing the tartar at, above, and below the gum line.  Root planing removes bacteria along the root surfaces, and smooths out rough spots along the root surface.


Medications can be used as adjunct (supplement) treatment to scaling and root planing (deep cleaning).  Medications however are not a substitute for definitive treatment.

Medication types:

  • Antimicrobial mouth rinse: A prescription mouth rinse called chlorohexidine, it is used to decrease oral bacterial levels.  Chlorohexidine rinses may be prescribed after deep cleanings, and is used 1-2 times daily.
  • Antibiotic chip: A very tiny piece of gel filter filled with chlorohexidine, it is used to decrease oral bacterial levels and to reduce the depth of periodontal pockets.  The antibiotic chip is placed in the pockets after the deep scaling and root planing is done, where the chlorohexidine is released slowly over time.
  • Antibiotic gel: A gel containing the antibiotic doxycycline, it is used to decrease oral bacterial levels and reduce the depth of periodontal pockets.  The antibiotic gel is placed in the pockets after the deep scaling and root planing is done, where the chlorohexidine is released slowly over time.
  • Antibiotic microspheres: Small round particles containing the antibiotic minocycline, it is used to decrease oral bacterial levels and reduce the depth of periodontal pockets.  The antibiotic microsphere is placed in the pockets after the deep scaling and root planing is done, where the chlorohexidine is released slowly over time.
  • Systemic antibiotics:  As tablets or capsules, antibiotics (i.e. tetracyline)  may be taken over time for a periodontal infection that is aggressive and acute.


Pocket Reduction Surgery: Also known as flap surgery, this surgery is performed if gum inflammation and pockets remain deep after deep cleaning and medication treatments.  The surgery involves reflecting the gums back away from the bone, removing any excessive tartar buildup along the roots, and suturing the gums in place against the tooth and bone, thereby “shrinking” the periodontal pockets.

Your dentist or periodontist may perform pocket reduction surgery to shrink the periodontal pockets to make it easier for the patient to keep said areas clean.

Guided Tissue Regeneration Graft: Your dentist or periodontist may recommend this tissue graft to grow and regenerate lost bone tissue from periodontitis.  Guided tissue regeneration may entail a bone graft, where bone (natural or synthetic bone power) is placed in the area of bone loss.  The placed bone helps promote bone regrowth, and prevents gingival tisse from growing where there was once loss of bone.

A soft tissue graft may also be recommended in situations of lost gum tissue, where either synthetic material or soft tissue taken from a separate area of the mouth is utilized to protect and cover exposed root surfaces.


By far the most effective and cost efficient method to keep your teeth and gums healthy and free of gum disease and cavities is proper oral hygiene.

  • Floss daily and regularly to remove bacteria and food plaque between the teeth.
  • Daily brushing twice a day to remove bacteria on visible surfaces of the teeth.
  • Go to your dentist and hygienist for a checkup and dental cleaning every 6 months or as recommended.
  • Don’t use tobacco products like cigarettes, cigars, and tobacco chews.


Though currently no studies have shown gum disease to be a definitive causative factor of system health issues, research have shown gum disease to be associated with health problems.  Many studies have shown people who have gum disease were more likely to develop ischemic heart disease when compared to those who do not have gum disease.  Studies have also shown pregnant women who have gum disease have a greater chance of delivering premature lower weight babies.

If you have any questions about bleeding gums, gum disease, and bone loss contact us at (425) 614-1600 today!

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