Also known as periodontal disease, gum disease affects approximately 80% of adults in the United States. Many are unaware that they have it, as the symptoms can be subtle until the disease is advanced. Yet it is important to recognize the early warning signs, as gum disease is significantly easier to treat in its earliest stages.
What Is Gum Disease?
Gum disease starts with plaque, a sticky blend of food debris and bacteria that coats the teeth. If it is not promptly and thoroughly removed, plaque hardens into tartar, which irritates the gums and makes it easy for bacteria to invade. This leads to the chronic infection known as gum disease.
The earliest form of gum disease, or gingivitis, is inflammation. Over time, the bacteria begin to attack the soft tissues and bones that support the teeth. At this stage, known as periodontitis, you are at risk for severe decay and even tooth loss. Gum disease can also impact your overall physical health.
Below are the top signs and symptoms of gum disease. If you notice any of these warning signals, see your dentist right away.
Although halitosis, or bad breath, can be caused by many different things, chronic halitosis can be an early sign of gum disease, especially if your mouth tastes strange. The invading bacteria create distinct odors and tastes that do not go away with brushing or mouthwash.
Always call your dentist to report bad breath, even if you are certain that you do not have gum disease. Most causes are relatively minor and simple to treat, but can worsen if left untreated.
Visible or Painful Gum Changes
Healthy gums appear pink or coral, and are even across your teeth. They feel firm to the touch, and are not painful or sore.
Gingivitis causes mild irritation to the gums. If yours are swollen, red, or tender, especially during brushing or flossing, you might be suffering from early gum disease.
As gum disease advances, the gums actually start to recede from the teeth. Your teeth will start to look longer, and your gums might appear uneven throughout your mouth. These are signs of worsening periodontitis, so it is crucial to see the dentist right away.
Bleeding Gums or Pus Pockets
As gum disease causes irritation, it only makes sense that bleeding gums are a very common sign. If your gums bleed while brushing or flossing, or eating crunchy foods, tell your dentist as soon as possible.
Progressing gum disease leads to small pockets of pus between the teeth and the gums. These small spots feel swollen to the touch, and can be either hard or soft. You might pop one of these pockets while eating, and notice a sudden, very bad taste in your mouth. As gum disease continues to worsen, the small pockets tend to give way to large, tremendously painful abscesses.
Changes in the Way Your Teeth Fit Together
Untreated gum disease eventually causes the gums to loosen from the teeth. As bacteria work their way into the gaps, and down into the bones and tissues that support the teeth, they cause changes to the bite. If your teeth seem to close oddly, or you have a partial denture that sits differently in your mouth, your gum disease is likely worsening.
Loose or Shifting Teeth
In late-stage gum disease, the teeth actually begin to loosen and shift within the mouth. This is a serious sign that you are at risk for imminent tooth loss. You must see your dentist right away to save your teeth.
Gum disease affects the vast majority of adults, and it is highly reversible in its earliest stages. Over time, however, gum disease that is left untreated will continue to progress, affecting your overall health and putting you at serious risk for losing your teeth. Even in later stages, however, there are measures your dentist can take to halt and possibly reverse the damage. No matter what signs and symptoms you are currently experiencing, now is the right time to contact your dentist.
Married dentists Chad and Alexandra Schnabel welcome you to Savannah Dental Solutions. From caring children’s dentistry to high-tech cosmetic procedures and even full-mouth reconstruction, we blend the latest technology with traditional customer-oriented values. To start your journey to better oral health, call us today at (912) 354-1366.
The Importance of Hygiene Visits (Teeth Cleaning)
We want you to have the brightest smile and the healthiest teeth. One of the most important reasons to visit a dentist is to keep your teeth clean and identify any emergency dental problems you may be experiencing. Having your teeth professionally cleaned can identify dental problems that you may not be aware of. Plaque and tartar can form even with meticulous brushing. When tartar collects below the gumline, gum infection can result and can lead to tooth loss or gum disease.
Research also has proven a link between the advanced stages of gum disease and serious health problems. Diabetes, stroke, and heart disease are just a few of the risks. We recommend regular cleanings by our hygienist to help you keep overall good dental health. Click here to learn more and schedule an appointment for a teeth cleaning.
Preventing the Number One Cause of Lost Teeth
If gums start to bleed while brushing or flossing, or any teeth become loose, it is important to have these symptoms checked. They are often a sign of infected gums, and this disease can be controlled and reversed during the early stages with nonsurgical methods. Regular checkups also help prevent the onset of periodontal disease, as sometimes these symptoms don’t occur when there is infection.
Gum Disease Can Contribute to Heart Disease and Even Stroke
Many patients may not be aware that periodontal disease can have an effect on more than just your teeth. Medical research has revealed that there is a link between bacterial infections of the gums and the onset or worsening of strokes, cardiovascular problems, and diabetes. It is clear that gum disease can result in more serious problems than losing your teeth. As the American Dental Association has determined that 8 out of 10 adults have infections in their gums, dentists are considering this to be an epidemic health risk.
As the bacteria from the infected gums travels throughout the bloodstream, it has the potential to affect your vital organs. The American Academy of Periodontology reports, “studies found periodontal infection may contribute to the development of heart disease, increase the risk of premature, underweight births, and pose a serious threat to people whose health is already compromised due to diabetes and respiratory diseases.”
Now the Good News
We advise our patients to come into our office immediately with any of the symptoms of infected gums, as once the infection reaches an advanced stage the treatment will be surgery. In milder stages, the problem can be reversed with nonsurgical procedures and improved daily dental hygiene. With most dental insurance plans, both types of procedures are covered.
Is There a Problem with Missing Teeth?
Most teeth are lost because of gum disease and not accident or decay, as many assume. It is important to maintain a full set of teeth, as even one missing tooth can let the other teeth move or shift. This affects chewing, which lessens the amount of nutrients you absorb from your food. It may also become more difficult to chew, so softer, less nutritious foods will be consumed, which can result in an increase in weight. Speech can become slurred, resulting in embarrassment and less desire to socialize. Eventually, your face will take on a “sunken” look, making you appear much older than your age.
We offer you natural-looking implants that give you a full smile and complete functionality of teeth. We can replace one or many teeth with implants. Your confidence will be restored when your missing teeth are replaced.