Gum Disease Symptoms
If you’re troubled with red, tender, bleeding gums, you may be in the early stages of gingivitis, or gum disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that half of all adults over the age of 30 have some degree of gum disease. Among adults over the age of 65, three quarters may have gum disease. Gum disease has some noticeable symptoms in most cases.
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease takes two forms. The first is gingivitis, which is a much less serious form of gum disease. The cardinal symptom is bleeding gums when you brush your teeth. Gum disease results from bacterial growth and plaque. Tartar builds up on the teeth, allowing even more bacteria to multiply. Your gums begin to recede and you may develop pockets around the teeth that can become infected and fill with pus. At this stage you have the more serious form of the condition called periodontitis.
Gum Disease and Your Health
Gum disease isn’t just about your oral health. It can be a sign of a weakened immune system or a chronic condition that affects healing, like diabetes. While gum disease doesn’t actually cause other conditions like heart disease, people with gum disease are more likely to have heart disease and other chronic metabolic conditions. Untreated gum disease can result in tooth loss and generalized infections that can even be life-threatening.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Inadequate oral hygiene is the most likely cause of gum disease. That’s why you should floss your teeth daily, brush twice and day and have a professional cleaning about every six months. However, certain risk factors increase your chances of developing gum disease. Smoking is the most significant of all gum disease risk factors. Women may be more susceptible to gum disease during periods of hormonal fluctuations like puberty, pregnancy and menopause. However, men are generally more susceptible to gum disease than women. Genetic susceptibility can be a factor, and having a dry mouth – whether from mouth breathing or as a side effect of medications – can also promote gum disease.
Gum Disease Symptoms
The initial symptoms of gum disease are often subtle, but in almost all cases, even a lay person can spot them. They include:
- Chronic bad breath that won’t go away not matter how often your brush your teeth or use mouthwash.
- Red, swollen, tender or bleeding gums.
- Pain when chewing.
- Loose teeth.
- Receding gums that expose more of the teeth or even expose the roots.
- Teeth that are sensitive to temperature changes or certain foods like sweets.
- Shifting teeth – this can mean the bone in the jaw is affected, and the teeth are shifting because the bone has deteriorated.
- Sores in the mouth, especially along the gum line.
- Obvious infections, with pus or pockets along the bottom of the teeth.
Treatment for Gum Disease
If you have gum disease, it’s always better to get treatment early. Sometimes all that’s necessary is more careful attention to oral hygiene and more frequent professional cleanings. In other cases, you may need a surgical procedure. Some of the procedures used to treat gum disease include scaling and root planing, in which the teeth are scraped to remove plaque and tartar and then smoothed to decrease the surface for bacterial growth. Receding gums are treated with gum grafts. Pus pockets must be drained, thoroughly cleaned and the gum reattached to the tooth.
Gum disease can become a serious problem. If you have symptoms of gum disease, see your dentist. He or she may recommend you also see a periodontist for treatment.