Good oral health goes beyond the condition of your teeth. Your gums are just as important. Gum disease can lead to serious complications not only in the mouth, but also in other parts of the body—periodontitis has been linked to cardiovascular health, COVID-19 survival rates, and diabetes, among other conditions. If you suspect that you have gum disease, here are some warning signs to look for.
Changes In Your Gums
Naturally, the first sign of gum disease is usually changes to the gums. The precursor to gum disease is a condition called gingivitis, which causes the gums to be inflamed. As gingivitis worsens and progresses into more advanced gum disease, you are likely to notice that your gums are:
- Red or even purple in color
- Bleeding during flossing or brushing
Luckily, gum disease caught early can often be reversed with a simple minimally-invasive periodontal treatment called scaling and root planing, which removes the bacteria that causes the gums to be infected and encourages the gums to heal.
Tenderness, bleeding, and color changes aren’t the only symptoms you’ll notice with your gums. Over time, your gums will begin to recede, leaving your teeth looking longer and causing painful sensitivity because the newly exposed tooth roots don’t have the same amount of enamel as the rest of your tooth, making them sensitive to hot, cold, and sweet foods.
As the gums recede, deep pockets form between the gum tissue and the roots of your teeth. These pockets collect tartar and bacteria, which can cause gum disease to worsen. The bacteria may compromise the roots of the teeth, gums, and even the supporting bone structures. At this point, gum disease can still be treated, but some of the damage may require additional procedures to treat.
Bad breath is one of the hallmarks of gum disease. This comes from the sores, pus, and bacteria in your mouth. Brushing, chewing gum, or having a mint might provide temporary relief, but the odor quickly comes back.
Of course, people don’t always know that they have bad breath, especially if no one tells them. A related sign of gum disease is having a foul taste in your mouth.
Because gum disease attacks the supporting structures of the mouth—the gums and jawbone—in its later stages, you are likely to notice changes to your teeth. They may be more crowded than usual or further apart. Teeth may have shifted in your mouth or feel loose. When you bite down, you might feel like your teeth don’t fit together like they used to. Eventually, your teeth may even start to fall out.
By the time you reach this stage of periodontitis, it’s likely that you will need several procedures to restore your oral health. Once the infection is under control, you may need gum and/or bone grafts as well as a bridge, dentures, or dental implants.