Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is exceptionally common. In fact, an estimated 80% of adults have some form of it. The condition begins with plaque, the sticky substance that coats the teeth and gums due to food debris and bacteria. If it is not promptly removed, plaque can harden into tartar, which causes gum irritation and makes it more likely for the bacteria to cause an infection. As the bacteria spreads throughout the irritated gum tissues, it can cause periodontal disease.
The disease starts as gingivitis, or gum inflammation, and can progress to periodontitis, in which bacteria invade below the gum line and begin attacking the tissues and bones that support the teeth. Over time, gum disease can cause your teeth to need to be removed, and can also impact your overall health. Some people experience few, if any, symptoms until the disease is quite advanced, but many notice signs that begin in the very earliest stages. Here are four important signs of periodontal disease that you should never ignore.
1. Red, swollen, tender, or receding gums
Healthy gums are pink or coral in color. They look and feel firm and even across all of the teeth. Gums that appear red or swollen are often an indicator of gingivitis, the mildest form of periodontal disease, especially when there are no other symptoms. They may also be tender to the touch, especially when brushing and flossing. Bring this condition to your dentist’s attention as soon as possible so that you can begin treatment and avoid further progression of gum disease.
As the disease progresses, the gums tend to recede, causing the teeth to appear longer. If you notice this symptom, make it a priority to see the dentist right away. This is a sign that your gum disease is worsening and must be treated to avoid tooth loss.
2. Bleeding or pus-filled gums
Bleeding gums are another common symptom of periodontal disease, and can occur during the gingivitis phase. Bleeding during brushing and flossing is especially common, but you might also notice a little blood when eating hard or crunchy food. Pockets of pus can form between the teeth and the gums, especially when the disease has progressed to the point that the gums are separating from the teeth. Check your gums for small swollen spots that are hard or squishy, and may be tender or painful. As the disease progresses, it is not unusual to develop highly painful abscesses.
3. Persistent bad breath
Although bad breath can have numerous causes, frequent or persistent halitosis is a common symptom of gum disease. The bacteria in your gums can create an odor that is unpleasant and hard to mask. You might also notice an odd taste in your mouth that does not go away with mouthwash or breath mints. Even if you don’t believe you have gum disease, check with your dentist. Many causes of bad breath can be easily treated in your dentist’s office.
4. Loose or shifting teeth
As periodontal disease progresses, the gums recede further and further, and eventually detach from the teeth, leaving pockets in which the bacteria can multiply. Meanwhile, the untreated bacteria destroy the underlying structures that support the teeth. This combination can cause noticeable looseness and shifting of the teeth. Many times, an early sign of this is a change in your bite, or the way your teeth come together when you chew. Partial denture wearers sometimes notice that the appliance is seated differently than it used to be. This is a later-stage symptom, and action must be taken immediately. If the disease is allowed to progress past this point, it is very likely that you will experience some tooth loss.
Periodontal disease is a serious condition that can destroy your teeth and increase your chances of developing such major illnesses as heart disease and systemic infections. When properly treated, however, even late-stage periodontitis can be halted. No matter what symptoms you are experiencing, it is never too late to call your dentist and take the first steps to a healthier, better you.
Family Dental Care of Bellevue provides quality dental care to patients and their families. Call them today at 425-643-5778 to see how they can help improve your smile.