Gum disease, also sometimes referred to as periodontitis, is a serious condition that requires proper treatment. With gum disease, bacteria begin growing in the mouth, leading to damage of the gums and tissues around an individual’s teeth.
Failing to properly treat gum disease can cause patients to permanently lose their teeth because of the damage. Periodontitis is a slightly different condition from gingivitis, otherwise known as gum inflammation.
Inflammation of the gums commonly occurs before gum disease, but not all cases of gingivitis will progress to periodontitis. Early gingivitis occurs when the gums are inflamed by bacteria in tooth plaque.
Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis, which causes the inner layers of bone and gum to pull away entirely from the teeth.
Symptoms and Signs of Gum Disease
Get the full details on the major warning signs of gum disease now.
1. Bleeding Gums
Bleeding gums are the most recognizable sign of gum disease and they can occur with both gingivitis and periodontitis. It’s also possible for bleeding gums to be a sign of leukemia, certain vitamin deficiencies, or problems with blood clotting.
When plaque stays on gums for too much time, the bacteria cause the gums to become inflamed. Plaque that isn’t removed can harden and become tartar. If individuals have tartar on their gums, they’re more likely to bleed more.
Gum inflammation can cause the gums to bleed, become puffy, and feel sore. The rest of the affected individual’s mouth might also feel sore. When the inflammation advances to periodontitis, patients have an infection in their gums that’s causing the inflammation.
As the bone and gums pull away from the teeth, hollow spaces are formed. These spaces can be filled by bacteria, which cause serious damage to both teeth and gums.
If individuals think they may have periodontitis, they should see a dentist or doctor right away. Failing to treat periodontitis in time can cause teeth to become loose and fall out.
2. Swollen or Tender Gums
An individual’s gums may become tender or swollen if they have gum disease, and they may also look redder than usual. Some patients don’t experience pain in their gums as gum disease progresses, even when the disease reaches its late stages.
If individuals notice their gums are swollen and red, but they aren’t feeling tenderness or pain, it’s still a good idea to talk to a dentist. Some patients experience gum disease throughout their gums, but others only have certain teeth affected.
Tooth-specific gum disease will often affect the molars. Periodontists and dentists are the only professionals specifically trained in how to diagnose and manage gum disease.
Gingivitis and periodontitis can both cause swelling and tenderness in the gums. With gingivitis, the swelling is due to inflammation. Swelling may become worse when the disease progresses to periodontitis, since there is an underlying infection causing further inflammation.
Patients can stop gum disease from causing further damage by practicing proper plaque control and seeing a dentist for cleanings twice yearly.
3. Receding Gums
Receding gums are one of the most serious signs of gum disease. With this condition, the affected individual’s gums move away from the surface of their teeth, causing the rooted surfaces to become exposed.
Individuals will notice these surfaces are much darker than the rest of their teeth because they aren’t covered by protective enamel. Receding gums are always a sign of gum disease, and they indicate gingivitis has become periodontitis.
If patients don’t receive treatment promptly, they could lose their teeth. Varying treatments are available, but the best one will depend on how serious the loss of tissue is. Early treatment is crucial for a good outlook.
Several factors can lead to receding gums, including brushing too aggressively, resulting in damage to the gums. A hardened buildup of plaque can also cause gum damage.
Smoking and a family history of gum disease both increase an individual’s risk of receding gums. Certain illnesses like HIV and diabetes can lead to receding gums as well.
If patients have medication that causes dry mouth, their risk of receding gums becomes higher because their saliva isn’t breaking down food the way it should.
4. Loose or Shifting Teeth
Loose teeth and shifting teeth are both signs of gum disease. When the gums pull away from an individual’s teeth, they create pockets that aren’t supposed to be there. The deeper these pockets get, the more serious and advanced the disease is.
Bacteria can grow inside and infect these pockets. Part of how dentists diagnose gum disease is by feeling the pockets to check their size. Since the gums aren’t keeping the teeth in place, they begin to loosen or shift.
If individuals notice a change in their biting pattern, such as their teeth not fitting together how they usually do, this is cause for concern even if their teeth don’t feel loose.
Shifting teeth indicate periodontitis is progressing rapidly. The tooth tissue becomes destroyed, causing the teeth to be less solidly attached to the jawbone.
5. Chronic Bad Breath
Poor dental hygiene is often the cause of bad breath, but other issues can lead to bad breath, and certain foods and lifestyle habits can worsen chronic bad breath. Any foods with strong odors can cause individuals to have worse breath than usual.
This odor cannot be eliminated until the foods have completely passed through the digestive tract. If individuals don’t floss and brush their teeth daily, bacteria are more likely to grow on their gums and between their teeth.
The bacteria is what causes bad breath. If individuals use an antibacterial mouthwash, they may be able to reduce bacterial growth in their mouth. Persistent bad breath can indicate gum disease, especially if it continues even after individuals brush their teeth.
The bacteria in plaque lead to gum inflammation, and when the disease progresses to periodontitis, the infection in the pockets of the gums may cause bad breath.