Many Americans suffer from chronic gum disease, including middle-aged and young adults. In fact, almost half of adults that are 30 years or older present with some form of gum disease, with the number of individuals affected increasing significantly in older populations. Therefore, understanding when to recognize that your gums are unhealthy and need treatment is important, because many patients still have little to no understanding of what gum disease even is.
Recognizing Gum Disease
So, what symptoms exactly constitute “gum disease”? The most obvious things to look for are red or swollen gums, gums that bleed while brushing and/or flossing, or bad breath. There are various degrees of gum disease depending on its severity. In the beginning stage called gingivitis, we start to see slight inflammation—the medical term for swelling—in the gums and some areas that bleed when flossing. If you fail to treat gum disease at this stage, the condition worsens leading to severe gum inflammation, heavy bleeding, and loss of the jawbone that holds our teeth in the mouth. The end result of this, if left untreated, is that your teeth will become very loose and fall out. This may seem extreme, but it’s fact that gum disease is one of the leading causes of tooth loss in the world. The good news, is that gum disease is often easily preventable with proper brushing, flossing, and regular dental hygiene visits. Here is a more detailed look at the top six symptoms that present with gum disease:
#1 Bleeding Gums
With gum disease, your gums are more sensitive to normal hygienic activity, like brushing and flossing, causing them to bleed when you’re cleaning your teeth. If you notice they’re bleeding often, then you should schedule a dental hygiene visit. During the appointment, a hygienist will measure the depth of your gums and call out any areas that bleed when touched, indicating these areas are more infected. Increased prevalence of bleeding areas indicates the severity of gum disease. If the hygienist notices a lot of bleeding, your dentist will recommend more frequent hygiene visits until your gum health improves.
#2 Swollen Gums
Puffy, swollen gums are another indication of gum disease. The swelling is your body’s immune response to bacteria that has built up on the teeth. Accumulation of bacteria on the teeth leads to the formation of a biofilm, or a bacterial colony that then infects the gums. The body tries to fight it off with its immune system, and as a result, the gums get red, swollen, and tender. Brushing and flossing are simple techniques to help disrupt these bacterial colonies from forming on your teeth.
#3 Receding Gumline
Are you starting to notice that your gums are receding, or pulling away from your teeth? When this happens, the roots of your teeth become exposed causing increased sensitivity to eating, drinking, and brushing. The exposed roots are evident because they are a slightly darker and yellower color than the white enamel on the crowns of the teeth, and when visible, they also negatively affect the appearance of your smile. Maintaining a healthy mouth will help keep the gums stable and reduce the chances that they will recede and expose the roots of the teeth.
#4 Bad Breath
Halitosis, or bad breath, is often an indication that you are suffering from moderate gum disease. Once bacterial biofilms have become widespread on the teeth, they migrate under the gums and spread throughout the mouth, growing more colonies everywhere, such as the crevices on the surface of the tongue. As they continue to grow and multiply, they produce waste products that contain sulfur causing bad breath, and sometimes even a bad taste in your mouth. At this point, regular at-home hygiene won’t do the trick, so if you notice these symptoms it’s time to schedule a hygiene visit with your dentist.
#5 Tooth Sensitivity
As mentioned above, gum disease causes your gums to pull away from the teeth exposing more of the roots. The roots of the teeth aren’t meant to exist uncovered in the mouth because they are extremely sensitive to temperatures and acidity. The result is that you feel pain or discomfort from eating/drinking anything hot, cold, sugary, or acidic. Toothpaste and vibration from electric toothbrushes, and sometimes even chewing can cause discomfort as well.
#6 Loose Teeth
Once gum disease has progressed to the final stage, you might notice teeth starting to get loose. This is the result of widespread bacteria in the mouth that eats away the jawbone attached to the teeth. This bone keeps the teeth stable in the mouth, so that once this foundation is lost, the teeth become unstable and can no longer withstand chewing forces. As result, they become loose and need to be taken out. Surprisingly enough, it’s not always obvious to patients when a tooth is so loose that it needs to be extracted because there may be no pain associated with it. In these instances, routine checkup x-rays help your dentist and hygienist visualize the amount of jawbone surrounding the teeth. Therefore, it’s important to have these routine x-rays taken at least yearly during your dental hygiene visits for a thorough examination of the mouth.
Stop the Damage Today and Schedule an Appointment with Our Dentist
Good oral hygiene at home, along with routine hygiene visits with your dentist, are a fool-proof method for preventing gum disease. If it has been over six months since your last dental hygiene visit, then it’s a good time to call our office to see your Woodland Hills dentist, Dr. Nargiz Zadeh. We strive to provide the highest quality of comprehensive dental care for our patients and will work with you to keep your gums healthy. Get in touch with us today!