You may notice that some people, whether they have braces or not, have red, swollen, and puffy gums. Perhaps you notice it more often in people with braces on (braces do catch some attention!). What’s going on here?
There are some subtle differences in thickness of healthy gum tissue within the population, but healthy gums are never red in color. Healthy gums are pink or brown (depending on natural pigmentation) and firm. Red, puffy gums or any gum bleeding when brushing or flossing are signs of inflammation and gum disease. Beyond this, gum disease causes bad breath (believe me, it’s noticeable!) and can lead to tooth loss down the road! Gum disease is almost always caused by poor oral hygiene. If you don’t brush using proper technique at least two times per day, floss at least once a day, and get dental cleanings at least twice a year, you’re at a high risk for developing some level of gum disease.
Gum Disease: Gingivitis or Periodontitis?
- Gingivitis is the inflammation and swelling of the gums that happens due to the prolonged presence of plaque and tartar on the teeth. This stage of gum disease IS reversible because none of the bone that surrounds and supports the teeth has been lost (yet).
- Periodontitis is a result of prolonged gingivitis and poor oral hygiene that results in bone loss. This bone loss is irreversible! It can also make the teeth appear longer (receding gums), and lead to tooth loss in advanced stages. According to a comprehensive nationwide study conducted in 2012 by the CDC, half of American adults have periodontitis. The numbers are not available for gingivitis, but I’d personally conjecture that at least 80% of people have some level of gingivitis in some areas of their mouth.
If you have active, uncontrolled periodontal disease you are not a candidate for orthodontic treatment. The process of bone remodeling that happens during tooth movement is too much for an already-inflamed periodontal structure to handle: it will result in further bone loss and even tooth loss!
Ultimately, the answer to the question of this post about whether braces causes overgrown gums, is a resounding “no”! Many people do develop gingivitis when they have braces on because of their lack of oral hygiene. When you have braces on your teeth and gums are officially “high maintenance” and require much more attention to detail and care in how brushing and flossing is performed! There are just so many more nooks and crannies that plaque and food can get stuck in. At your next appointment, ask your orthodontist or your orthodontic assistant how you’re doing at keeping your teeth, gums, and braces clean! 🙂