How to Recognize Gum Disease
Gum disease (periodontitis) is one of the leading causes of tooth loss in adults. It occurs when your gums become infected. Without treatment, the condition can result in loss of teeth and the bone that supports teeth.
However, because gum disease can be painless initially, many people do not realize they have a problem. So, we’re going to explain how to recognize gum disease.
An awareness of what causes gum disease will help you to spot the symptoms. The condition begins with inflammation of the gums. This is called gingivitis and it can progress to the more serious disease of full-blown periodontitis.
Gum disease develops just below the gum line through an accumulation of plaque – a sticky film of bacteria that can become calcified to form the harder substance of tartar, which can only be removed by professional cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist.
The bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack your gums. Because plaque is transparent, it can go unnoticed.
Typical Symptoms of Gum Disease
According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), gum disease mainly affects people after they reach their 30s or 40s and is more common among men.
Besides posing a serious threat to your oral health, gum disease can also affect your overall wellbeing. The infection can spread to other parts of your body, including vital organs such as the heart, brain, and lungs.
The first sign of gum disease is often bleeding gums. This bleeding can occur when you brush your teeth or when you eat. You may also notice your gums – which should be pink and firm – have become tender, red and spongy.
Another warning sign of gum disease is that your teeth appear to be longer. This happens because of gum recession when the soft tissue around your teeth wears away to reveal more of the tooth or even the root of the tooth.
Loose Teeth, bad breath, and tooth sensitivity
Infection beneath the gum line can loosen your teeth or even cause them to fall out. This happens when bacteria prompt your body’s immune system to attack the gum tissue and bone around your teeth. Look out for new spaces appearing between your teeth.
Persistent bad breath (halitosis) can be caused by gum disease when plaque creates toxins that produce an unpleasant-smelling gas.
Tooth sensitivity can be an indication of gum disease-causing erosion of tooth enamel, leaving the underlying layer of dentin unprotected.
Other symptoms of gum disease include:
- A change in how your teeth fit together when you bite.
- A change in the fit of partial dentures.
- Pus between gums and teeth.
- Mouth sores.
In rare cases, a condition called acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG) can suddenly develop. The symptoms of this condition are typically more severe than those of periodontitis and include:
- Aching, bleeding gums.
- Painful ulcers.
- Metallic taste in the mouth.
- Over-production of saliva.
- Difficulty in talking or swallowing.
- High temperature.
What Your Dentist Will Look For
If you suspect you may have gum disease, it’s important to see a dentist as soon as possible. According to the WebMD health information platform, only a dentist can definitively recognize the development and progression of gum infections.
As well as checking your gums for signs of softness or bleeding, your dentist will assess:
- Sensitivity, movement, and alignment of your teeth.
- The depth of periodontal pockets (space between teeth and gums).
- The condition of your jaw bone.
Importance of Good Oral Hygiene
The main cause of gum disease is poor oral hygiene, which can quickly result in a build-up of plaque and tartar.
Good oral health care at home will consist of:
- Brushing your teeth twice a day with an antimicrobial toothpaste containing fluoride.
- Flossing between your teeth daily to get rid of plaque that your toothbrush can’t reach.
- Using an antibacterial mouthwash.
- Eating a balanced diet.
Remember to schedule regular dental check-ups so early signs of gum disease can be detected by your dentist.
Gum Disease Risk Factors
Some people are more at risk of periodontitis, and the probability of getting gum disease increases with aging. Research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that more than 70 percent of people in the U.S. aged 65 and older suffer from periodontitis.
You also need to be particularly vigilant about watching out for symptoms of gum disease if:
Your diet lacks sufficient nutrients. This can compromise your immune system, impairing your natural defenses against infections such as gum disease. Obesity can also increase the risk of gum disease.
You have another medical condition. Conditions such as cancer, diabetes and AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) and their treatments can negatively impact the health of your gums.
Gum disease runs in your family. Some people are genetically more vulnerable to gum disease.
You smoke. Smoking greatly increases the risk of gum disease. It can also mean treatment is less likely to be successful.
You suffer from stress. Stress can make it more difficult for your body to fight off gum disease. It can also result in teeth-grinding, which can aggravate gum disease.
You are pregnant. Hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy can make gums more susceptible to inflammation.
Need More Help on How to Recognize Gum Disease?
Gum disease is prevalent in the U.S. and if you’re aged over 30 there’s a 50-50 chance you’ll get it, maybe without appreciating there’s a problem, which can result in serious consequences including bone and tooth loss.
The American Dental Association (ADA) says gum disease may exhibit no obvious signs, so regular dental exams are vital for early diagnosis to enable effective treatment. The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) recommends an annual comprehensive periodontal evaluation (CPE) for all adults.
A dentist with a strong focus on preventive dentistry and experience in periodontal treatments will be able to help you further understand how to recognize gum disease symptoms and advise you on measures you can take to help to prevent gum problems.