How to Identify Gum Disease
Gum diseases are more common than you might think. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research has estimated that 80% of adults in the United States have gum disease to some degree. Not all of these cases are serious, of course, but teeth and gums are highly susceptible to disease and infection.
If not all of the cases are extremely painful or obvious, however, how do you know if you are among the many whose gums are less-than-healthy?
What Is Gum Disease?
Gum disease can come in many guises. It is not just elderly people who should be concerned about it—even children and teenagers are affected by periodontitis and gingivitis. Periodontal disease can be as mild as a slight inflammation or dangerous enough to cause tooth decay or tooth loss.
Gum diseases can also affect your overall health. Studies have linked gum disease to heart disease, increased risk of stroke, and diabetes among other conditions.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Before you know what to look for, you should know what causes gum disease so that you can do your best to prevent it.
Gum diseases are caused by bacteria. Bacteria, mucus, and other particles combine to form colorless plaque that we brush off of our teeth morning and night. Improper or inconsistent brushing leaves residual plaque, which can harden and form tartar, a cement-like substance that brushing doesn’t clean.
If plaque and tartar are allowed to stay on the teeth for too long, the bacteria in them causes inflammation of the gums called gingivitis. Gingivitis can be treated by flossing and brushing more consistently and seeing a dentist regularly. More serious diseases like periodontitis need further help.
Other variables that might cause gum disease include:
• Illnesses that attack your immune system (cancer, HIV, diabetes)
• Medications that lessen the flow of saliva
• Hormonal changes (puberty, menopause)
• Family history of dental diseases
What Symptoms Should I Watch For?
There are plenty of symptoms to watch out for when it comes to gum disease. Here are some of the most obvious:
• Bleeding gums
• Noticeably sensitive teeth
• Swollen or puffy gums
• Tender gums
• Consistently bad breath
• Gums that separate or pull away from your teeth
• Gums that have receded up from your teeth
• Pain when you bite down
• A persistent bad taste in your mouth
• Pus in between your teeth and gums
If you notice any of the above symptoms, you probably have some kind of gum disease. Tender or swollen gums is likely a mild case of gingivitis, and can be treated by being more diligent with your teeth cleaning.
If, however, you are experiencing some of the more extreme symptoms (pus, separating gums, etc.), you will need to seek further treatment.
How Bad Can It Be?
The symptoms listed above are not to be taken lightly. Gums pulling back from your teeth can lead to a whole slew of other, more serious problems. Periodontitis is a more advanced form of gingivitis, and it not only affects your gums, but your jawbone.
In the most serious cases, periodontitis causes bone decay and tooth loss. If you notice any of these signs, dental offices like Forest Lawn Dental Centre offer treatments for both mild and severe gum disease. Don’t wait to book an appointment with your dentist—the longer you wait, the further the disease can progress.
The most important thing you can do to prevent gum disease is to stay informed. Be aware of your own oral health, and take the proper preventative measures to protect your teeth and gums.
About the author: A recent college graduate from University of San Francisco, Anica loves dogs, the ocean, and anything outdoor-related. She was raised in a big family, so she’s used to putting things to a vote. Also, cartwheels are her specialty.
If you have any questions, please let Anica know.
Also, please review our Health Care Certifications for health care professionals and counselors offered at the American Institute of Health Care Professionals.