Unless you maintain good oral hygiene and go to a dentist for a check-up and dental cleaning twice a year, there’s a very high chance you may be suffering from gum disease. In fact, gum disease is so common that almost half of the population of the US (1) is suffering from it.
Not only can untreated gum disease lead to gum inflammation, tissue degeneration and eventually tooth loss, but gum disease has also been linked to heart disease, complications with diabetes, and even premature birth (2).
There are many different causes of gum disease and you’ll need a proper clinical dental exam with careful measurements and tests to fully determine whether you’ve got gum disease or not. With that being said however, there are a few signs and common symptoms of gum disease that you can observe that may help you find out if you have gum disease or to at least know what to look for. Despite this fact there are stil l
What is gum disease?
Gum disease is the dental condition where gums become inflamed and swollen. This is commonly referred to as gingivitis. If gingivitis is let untreated, after some time it may develop into periodontitis.
Periodontitis is a more advanced form of gum disease which affects more structures surrounding the tooth, most importantly – bone. Periodontits can cause tissue degeneration, and ultimately will affect the bone, causing deep pockets between the gum and the tooth.
Gum disease is the body’s response to attempt to fight bacteria that have entered in the gum. This is why gums become swollen with fluid and blood in an attempt to prevent any bacterial infection.
What causes gum disease?
There are many causes of gum disease, but the most significant is plaque accumulation on the surface of teeth.
Plaque is a sticky substance that forms on the surface of teeth consisting mainly of bacteria. When teeth aren’t brushed properly enough, this plaque remains near the gum line and harms the gum.
Other medical conditions and hormonal changes can also cause gum disease such as:
- Certain medication
- Poor nutrition
- Medical conditions such as diabetes
5 Signs of gum disease
1. Red and swollen gums
Healthy gums are pink in colour, stippled, and are very firm. Gums that are red and tender are usually the first signs of gum disease that a dentist looks for.
Red and swollen gums could happen sometimes due to reasons such as hormonal changes, or even eating a sharp piece of food, but gums that remain red and swollen for many days, suggest that they may be affected with gum disease.
Inflammation and swelling of the gum line happens as a response by the body to try and expel or fight off bacteria, if you have persistently swollen gums, it may be a wise idea to visit your dentist to get a dental cleaning.
2. Bleeding gums
Bleeding during brushing is an extremely common complaint by those who are suffering of gum disease.
If you’re brushing and flossing your teeth with the right technique, then there should really be no bleeding. Some bleeding is usually seen during flossing as it is a bit more complex and some people may be a bit too aggressive.
But if you notice blood on your toothbrush every time you’re brushing your teeth, then this could suggest the there is a large collection of bacteria along your gum line causing gingivitis and gum disease.
3. Loose teeth
The early stages of gum disease primarily affects the gum line. If this is left untreated for a long period of time, then the condition becomes worse, turning it periodontitis and affects other structures around the tooth such as the ligaments and the bone
Advanced gum disease causes tissue degeneration and bone loss, causing teeth to become mobile and loose.
4. Gum recession and teeth sensitivity
Your gums are designed to fit tightly all around the tooth, covering and protecting the root surface. The root surface and inner layer of the tooth (the dentin) are extremely sensitive, but are normally covered so that you don’t feel any pain.
As gum disease progresses and targets the areas around the tooth, this creates a pocket, where there is a gap between the tooth and the gum.
The more severe the gum disease, the deeper this pocket becomes and the more exposed your tooth and root surface become, causing intense teeth sensitivity, and giving the appearance that your teeth are longer than they are.
5. Bad breath
Bad breath (halitosis) is a very clear sign of gum disease. This is because the bacteria and plaque accumulation causing the gum disease multiply and give off this odor.
Bad breath as a result of gum disease is usually much worse and conspicuous, especially for the fact that it’s extremely persistent and won’t go away with tooth brushing, tongue brushing, or even using a mouthwash.
If you’ve been complaining of bad breath consider visiting your dentist to rule out gum disease or get a dental cleaning to solve this problem.
How to treat gum disease?
The treatment of gum disease will depend on the severity of your situation.
Gum disease that is limited only to the gum line (gingivitis) will usually be treated by getting a professional dental cleaning at a dentist’s office, and then following adequate prevention techniques.
Depending on how far your gum disease has progressed, you may be required to visit the dentist within a couple of months so that they can monitor your teeth and to note the improvement. Mouthwashes may even be prescribed for you.
More advanced cases of gum disease that display a lot of recession and bone loss, require more complex treatment options, that are usually done at a specialist. These treatments include surgery with a specialist (periodontist).
How to prevent gum disease?
Maintaining proper oral hygiene by brushing twice a day and flossing once a day is the most important thing you can do in order to prevent gum disease.
When brushing your teeth, use a toothbrush with soft bristles in order to avoid irritating your gum line, and use a toothpaste that has at least 1450 ppm of fluoride.
It’s very important to visit your dentist every 6 months in order to do a thorough dental cleaning consisting of scaling and root surface debridement.
Eating a balanced diet is also important for keeping your gums healthy and preventing any inflammation, especially a diet that ensures you don’t have any Vitamin C deficiency.