I recently had one of my semi-annual dentist appointments and was dismayed to hear that my gums had severely receded since my previous visit. My dentist told me I was dealing with gingivitis and that my gums were extremely inflamed. This came as quite a shock because I do try to take good care of my teeth by brushing and flossing. Now I had recently given birth to my second child and was still breastfeeding at the time, both of which affect the body’s hormones which, in turn, can have an impact on gum health, so I can’t be sure how much of a role my recent pregnancy played.
Of course when the dentist began talking about inflammation in the gums, I immediately wondered how much of that could be due to my Crohn’s disease diagnosis. Many of us have dealt with mouth ulcers as a result of inflammatory bowel disease, so it’s clear that the mouth is often impacted by these diseases.
We have probably all heard about gingivitis before, but may not know that much about what it actually entails.
The “-itis” tells me that inflammation is part of it, but I did not know much beyond that. Gingivitis is essentially inflammation of the part of your gum that is around the base of your teeth. It is most often caused by plaque build up on your teeth which then hardens into tartar and can irritate the gums, causing them to become inflamed. Gingivitis often causes your gums to be tender and to bleed easily when you brush or floss. The biggest issue with gingivitis is that is can spread further into the gums and ultimately the bones in your mouth causing periodontitis, which can lead to tooth loss.1
I found that recent studies have shown a correlation between Crohn’s disease and swelling of the gums.2
So it is possible that the gingivitis I am dealing with could have something to do with my diagnosis.
I realize that gingivitis can happen to anybody and if we are not properly taking care of our teeth there is a good possibility of it occurring, but the fact that the issues with my gums happened so quickly between appointments makes me suspect that something else is at play and making my symptoms worse. I also found that some medications used to treat IBD can also impact the gums.3
While I may never know the exact connection between my diagnosis and the inflammation in my gums, I now realized that I will have to take my oral hygiene even more seriously in order to do all that I can to prevent more issues in the future. Below are some tips for preventing gingivitis for any individual, but perhaps those of us with inflammatory bowel disease should consider taking it a step further to protect our teeth and gums.
Taking oral hygiene to the next level:
- Brush teeth at least twice daily for two minutes → Take it further: Brush after every meal or snack, especially if those snacks are sugary or sticky.
- Floss at least once daily → Take it further: Floss twice daily and take your time to really scrub the sides of each of your teeth.
- Visit dentist regularly to have teeth cleaned → Take it further: Schedule appointments every six months, or more often if your dentist recommends it, and speak to your dentist about possible inflammation of your gums and how your medications could be impacting your gums.