Gum disease involves the inflammation of the gum line. Without proper treatment, inflammation associated with gum disease can progress to the bone surrounding and supporting the teeth. This means untreated gum disease can eventually lead to tooth loss. Gum disease causes specific signs and symptoms, particularly when it is in an advanced state, also known as periodontitis. Recognizing these signs and symptoms can prompt you to seek care from a periodontal professional early, when gum disease is in its earliest stages and most responsive to periodontal treatment.
Millions of bacteria live in the human mouth. Along with mucous and other particles, these bacteria form a colorless, sticky plaque on your teeth. Brushing and flossing remove plaque. Any plaque remaining on your teeth can harden into tartar that brushing and flossing cannot remove. Only a dental professional, particularly a periodontal profession, can remove tartar.
Signs of Gum Disease
The longer plaque and tartar remain on your teeth, the more harm they may cause. The bacteria that form plaque and tartar can cause inflammation of your gums, a condition known as gingivitis.
In gingivitis, gums become:
- Prone to bleeding, especially when you brush or floss
Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease, and does not involve the bone that holds your teeth in place. You can control and even reverse gingivitis with daily brushing and flossing, and regular cleaning by a periodontist.
Untreated gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, which is inflammation that has moved from your gums deeper into the bone surrounding your teeth. The inflammation of periodontitis causes your gums to pull away from your teeth, creating spaces known as “pockets” that can trap food, bacteria and toxins that can lead to infections. Your body’s immune system fights the bacteria as the plaque grows and spreads beneath your gum line.
Your immune response, along with the bacteria and toxins, start to break down the connective tissue and bone that holds your teeth in place. Left unaddressed, this process can destroy the gums, bones, and connective tissue supporting your teeth. Your teeth may become loose – you might even lose the teeth.
Healthy gums are pale pink, firm, and fit snugly around your teeth. Signs and symptoms of periodontitis, which is advanced gum disease, include:
- Puffy or swollen gums
- Gums that feel tender when you touch them
- Bright red, dusky red or purplish-colored gums
- Gums that bleed easily, especially when you brush or floss
- Pus between your teeth and gums
- New spaces developing between your teeth
- Gums that pull away from your teeth in a way that makes your teeth look longer than normal
- Bad breath, also known as halitosis
- Loose teeth
- Painful chewing
- A change in the way your upper and lower teeth fit together when you bite down
Risk Factors that Make You More Likely to Develop Gum Disease and its Signs
Certain risk factors increase the odds that you will develop gum disease and its signs. You are more likely to develop advanced form of gum disease if you have gingivitis, for example, or if you have poor oral health habits. Smoking or chewing tobacco, older age, substance abuse, and obesity raise your risk for gum disease.
Vitamin C deficiency and other nutritional deficiencies increase the risk for gum disease, as do hormonal changes associated with pregnancy and menopause. Gum disease may be a complication of leukemia, HIV/AIDS, cancer treatment and other conditions that decrease immunity. People with diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn’s disease frequently develop gum disease. Some medications increase the likelihood of developing gum disease, particularly those medications that cause dry mouth or gum changes. You are also more likely to experience gum disease and its signs if one or both of your parents struggled with gum disease.
If you have signs of gum disease, make an appointment with a periodontal professional who can remove plaque and tartar quickly, before you lose teeth. Our Vero Beach and Melbourne, FL, dental professionals at Vero VIP Implants & Periodontics can prevent, diagnose, and treat periodontal disease before you lose teeth. If gum disease robs you of one or more teeth, our dental health professionals can also place dental implants for a smile that looks more natural than with dentures. Our doctor at Vero VIP Implants & Periodontics is a Diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology and has been published in the Journal of Periodontology Online. Do not let the early signs of gum disease progress into major problems – make an appointment with Vero VIP Implants & Periodontics today by calling 772.569.9700.