Do you know the key symptoms of gum disease? More than 80% of Americans have some form of gum disease, yet many won’t recognize it until it has become extremely challenging to fix. Gum disease is a chief concern for dentists, and it’s not just because it impacts the look of your smile. As we stress over and over at Sierra Smiles, your oral health has a dramatic impact on your complete health. Gum disease has been associated with:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Respiratory disease
- Colorectal cancer
- Prematurity and low birthweight
- And more!
As you can see, there’s more to preventing gum disease than a pretty smile. It can improve the quality and longevity of your life. As such, we’re sharing some common signs of gum disease and where to look for them. Here are three places to assess for symptoms of gum disease.
Airway: Chronic Bad Breath and Periodontitis (Gum Disease)
One common sign of gum disease that you may not know about is chronic bad breath. Everyone has bad breath on occasion — first thing in the morning, for example. However, the type of bad breath we are speaking of is constant. It persists even if you brush your teeth, chew sugarless gum or use mouthwash.
The smell caused by periodontitis is distinct. Dentists refer to it specifically as perio breath. Many dentists and hygienists have noted that the smell is similar to rot or death. This is understandable because it is akin to what is occurring in your mouth. The culprit is anaerobe bacteria, which gives off a smell as it slowly destroys your mouth. While there are certainly other reasons for chronic bad breath, this particular odor combined with a dental exam, can help you diagnose the problem. If you have noticed this issue or a loved one has brought it to your attention, pay a visit to your dentist. There’s no reason to be ashamed or embarrassed about getting help. Remember, 80% of Americans have some form of gum disease, so you are not alone.
Teeth: Pain, Sensitivity and Gum Disease
The next signs that you may have gum disease can be found in the condition of your teeth. As periodontitis worsens, the impact to your teeth can be dramatic. Gum disease causes your bone to break down over time. The damage to the bone can cause your teeth to loosen and fall out. Teeth that are loose in the gums can rock or shift during eating, causing severe pain. Not only that, but the bacteria also target your bone, leading to severe infections that lower your immunity and make you vulnerable to illness.
Tooth sensitivity is also a sign of gum disease. One cause is gum recession — when the gums pull away from the teeth (more on that in the next section). Your gums protect parts of your teeth that are not supposed to be exposed to eating, drinking or breathing. The exposed portion of the tooth can cause extreme pain and sensitivity.
Rotting and broken teeth are another casualty of gum disease. The bacteria that harm your gums, also harm your teeth. They cause cavities and hot spots that make sufferers miserable. Tooth pain and tooth loss are signs you need support from your dentist in stopping the progress of gum disease in your mouth. There are options for treatment that can help.
Gums: Recession, Swelling and Bleeding
The Mayo Clinic defines healthy gums as, “firm and pale pink and fit[ting] snugly around teeth.” Gum disease wreaks havoc on these tender tissues over time. One top concern is the gum recession we mentioned in the previous section. Gum recession is a key sign that you have some form of gum disease and it’s what your hygienist is searching for when they probe your gums during an exam. The process is known as periodontal charting and the numbers they call out as they examine your mouth, identify how tight the gum pocket is around your teeth. A number between 0-3 is great — your gums are doing their job. The higher the number, though, the more likely it is that you are in advanced stages of gum disease.
In addition to recession, blood or pus along the gum line is a sure sign that your gums may need treatment. Pus is particularly concerning, as it is a sign your body is fighting an infection. If your gums are swollen or bleeding, or if you have noticed pus along the gum line, it is important to see a dentist as soon as possible for treatment.
Treatment and Prevention of Gum Disease
While all of these symptoms are concerning, there are options for treatment and prevention. We cover treatment and prevention in-depth in our free ebook, “Healthy Gums, Healthy Life.” However, we will touch on a few options here.
Certain effects of advanced gum disease, such as gum recession and bone loss, are not reversible. However, that does not mean your dentist can’t help you recover. At Sierra Smiles, we use the Perio Protect Method to help treat our patients without surgical intervention (some cases may still require intervention).
Perio Protect uses fitted trays to encase the treatment solution around your gums. The treatment solution consists of hydrogen peroxide and other proprietary ingredients. It safely targets damaging bacteria without further damaging your teeth or gums. You can learn more about Perio Protect here.
Periodontitis prevention begins with, you guessed it, consistent brushing and flossing. These daily tasks prevent plaque build-up and the growth of harmful bacteria that can lead to gum disease. Flossing is of utmost importance because it gets into the pockets to tackle the loose food particles that can become a breeding colony for damaging bacteria.
The second part of prevention is visiting your dentist regularly. You probably spend extraordinarily little time examining your mouth and tracking the condition of your teeth. Your dentist keeps valuable records on your teeth that can help them catch the signs of gum disease and help you stop it before it becomes unmanageable with regular dental care. For example, the periodontal charting performed by your hygienist can alert them to rapid or new gum recession. Don’t skip your regular cleanings — they could save you a lot of heartache (and toothaches).
Would you like to learn more about treatment and prevention options for gum disease? Check out our free ebook, “Health Gums, Healthy Life: Understanding Gum Disease and How It Affects the Rest of Your Body.” You can download it or read it for free here.