Dental Health 101: What To Do About Plaque and Bleeding Gums

What Is Plaque
Plaque is the root of so many smile-deteriorating conditions. After every meal and drink, soft plaque is created. If the plaque is not quickly removed (with brushing), it mixes with minerals in your saliva and bacteria, and turns into calculus or hard plaque that coats the teeth. The more the debris hardens, the more difficult it is to remove and the more likely it is to get trapped between the gums and the base of the tooth. When the bacteria eats at sugar in the mouth, an acid forms that leads to decay and cavities and feeds off the hard enamel. It releases toxins, which cause the gums to become inflamed and pull away from the teeth. “Plaque is easy to remove with a soft toothbrush and floss,” says New York cosmetic dentist Irwin Smigel, DDS.

Bleeding Gums
Why It Happens
The single cause of bleeding gums is an underlying infection in them, which causes them to become inflamed. “When the gums bleed, which is most common during brushing, this signals that there is inflammation around the teeth, which may involve the supporting bone as well,” says cosmetic dentist Ronald Goldstein, DDS. Once the gums become irritated and swollen, they aren’t able to grip the teeth properly and the teeth become loose and decayed—sometimes the teeth even fall out. Besides bleeding, the gums may also excrete pus, which means 
there is a deep infection in the gums.

How To Prevent It
The single cause of bleeding gums is an underlying infection in them, which causes them to become inflamed. “When the gums bleed, which is most common during brushing, this signals that there is inflammation around the teeth, which may involve the supporting bone as well,” says Dr. Goldstein. Once the gums become irritated and swollen, they aren’t able to grip the teeth properly and the teeth become loose and decayed—sometimes the teeth even fall out. Besides bleeding, the gums may also excrete pus, which means there is a deep infection in the gums.

How To Flx It
Besides proper at-home care, your dentist can use ultrasonic tools to get at the bacteria and infection in the gums. There’s also laser surgery, which targets just the inflamed and damaged gums. “With laser surgery we use a local anesthetic and since there is no cutting, sewing or recovery, patients can go back to work that day. It can take up to one year for the gums to heal since the problem treated was underneath the gums,” says New York periodontist, Neil S. Lehrman, DDS. In cases where the tooth has started to rot away and there is bone loss, the damaged teeth may need to be removed and replaced with dental implants.