Everyone knows to take care of their teeth but what about the gums? These also play an important role in your oral health and yet they’re often overlooked. Without proper care, gum disease (gingivitis) can take hold and if left untreated it can develop into periodontal disease which may cause tooth (and even bone) loss in the mouth.
Symptoms linked with gum disease typically don’t cause pain, particularly early on – but that’s not to say that it isn’t there. A bit like chronic diseases such as heart disease or diabetes, you can be affected by gingivitis and feel perfectly fine. That said, there are some warning signs of gum disease to watch out for that may indicate you have gum disease. By being aware of these signs, along with maintaining good oral health and attending regular dental check-ups, you can lower the risk of developing periodontal disease.
Before delving into the signs of gum disease, let’s discuss what is meant by the term.
What is gum disease?
Gum disease or periodontal disease as it’s also known refers to an inflammation of the gum tissue that wraps around your teeth and supports them. It’s the major cause of tooth loss in adults but fortunately, when caught in its early stages it’s relatively easy to treat.
What are the signs of gum disease?
There are 4 tell-tale signs that you may have gum disease. They are:
Swollen red or sore gums
This is one of the most common signs that gum disease has taken hold. Healthy gums should be pale pink and should never bleed when you brush your teeth. Without regular brushing and flossing, bacteria-laden plaque can build-up and irritate the gums making them swollen, sore, and prone to bleeding. Bleeding gums are one of the early sign of periodontal disease known as gingivitis.
The good news is that at this stage, a professional clean coupled with more efficient brushing and flossing is usually all that’s needed to restore good oral health.
Are you a smoker? If so, there’s something more that you should know about bleeding gums.
Smoking can restrict the flow of blood to the gums effectively concealing one of the first warning signs of gum disease.
As gum disease advances, your teeth may start to look longer and this is because your gums have started to recede. Gum recession is a loss of tissue around the teeth that exposes the tooth roots. This becomes a health concern that can put your teeth at risk of infection, decay and even loss. Healthy gums should fit snugly around the teeth but as gum disease progresses and the gums continue to recess, deep spaces or pockets form around the teeth trapping food and debris which causes the disease to worsen. In effect, it becomes a vicious cycle.
Various treatments are available including scaling and smoothing the tooth roots. But in more severe cases, surgical treatments may be required to stabilise the disease.
Have you ever experienced a sharp sensation in your teeth when you drink hot or cold beverages, suck on an ice-lolly, or go for a walk when the air outside is cold? This is known as dentin hypersensitivity or tooth sensitivity and can be caused by thinning tooth enamel and/or exposed tooth roots. The tooth roots have no enamel to cover them and rely on the gums for protection. This is why gum recession can also lead to tooth sensitivity. If you find your teeth become increasingly sensitive, then visit your dentist since it could be a sign of gum disease.
Persistent bad breath
Most of us have bad breath at times, especially if we have eaten food containing garlic. Usually, this is easy to get rid of with tooth brushing and mouthwash. However, persistent bad breath can be a sign of poor oral health due to tooth decay, excessive bacteria, or gum disease. It’s normally caused by the smell of gases released by the bacteria that coats the gums, teeth, and tongue. As with the other warning signs, it’s wise to consult with your dentist.
Risk factors connected to gum disease
As well as the 4 warning signs above, several other factors are associated with poor oral health and gum disease. These include:
- Smoking – This is the most significant risk factors associated with periodontal disease and can also affect lower the chance of successful treatment
- Diabetes – Diabetes can thicken blood vessels and reduce the blood flow which, in turn, weakens the gums and bone.
- Hormonal changes in girls/women – hormone surges cause more blood to flow to the gums which can make them more sensitive and reactive
- Medications – Many medications reduce saliva flow which acts as a natural mouth wash. Reduced saliva makes the mouth more vulnerable to infections.
What to do if you notice any of the signs?
If your oral health is poor or you have noticed any of the warning signs of gum disease, it’s important to act quickly. The earlier gum disease is treated, the easier and less costly it is to get your dental health back on track.
If you feel you may be at risk of gum disease or you’re long overdue a dental check-up then please book an appointment and call us at 02 9051 0600 with the friendly dental team at Dental 266 for an assessment.