When most people think about oral health, they think about their teeth, but the gums are just as important—if not more so! Periodontal disease can have devastating consequences not only in the mouth, but also throughout the body. Cardiovascular disease, preterm birth, and diabetes have all been linked to periodontitis, so it’s important to take a proactive approach if you suspect you might have it. Here are some signs you should be aware of.
Changes in the Gums
Among the first signs of gum disease are changes in the gums. The precursor to gum disease is gingivitis, which causes the gums to become red and inflamed. If gingivitis progresses into gum disease, you’ll notice that your gums are:
- Reddish-purple in color
- Bleeding when you floss or brush
If gum disease is diagnosed and treated early, it can often be resolved with a simple, minimally invasive procedure called scaling and root planing. This treatment removes plaque and tartar buildup from beneath the gumline, and then smooths the roots of the teeth, which encourages the gums to reattach, eliminating the pockets where bacteria and tartar collect.
Redness and bleeding aren’t the only changes you’ll notice in your gums. When you have periodontitis, your gums will eventually begin to recede, making your teeth appear longer and causing painful sensitivity. This occurs because the exposed roots have less enamel than the rest of your tooth, making them sensitive to hot, cold, and sometimes even sweetness.
As your gums recede, deep pockets form between the gum tissue and the roots of your teeth. In these pockets, calculus and bacteria build up, worsening your gum disease. The bacteria causes infection that affects the tooth roots, gums, and jawbone. Gum disease can still be treated at this point, but unfortunately the damage it has caused may require restorative periodontal and dental work in the future.
Another sign of periodontitis is bad breath, as the bacteria and infected areas of your mouth can develop an odor. Chewing gum, breath mints, brushing your teeth, and mouthwashes will provide short-term relief, but the odor will soon return.
People are often unaware that they have bad breath if no one tells them, but if you have a foul taste in your mouth most of the time, it’s likely that you have halitosis; if this foul taste is accompanied by other symptoms, you may also have periodontal disease.
Because gum disease affects your teeth’s supporting structures, you’ll notice changes in your dental health as the condition worsens. Your teeth may shift, causing them to be either more crowded or further apart than they used to be. You might also notice that they feel loose in your mouth or don’t fit together properly when you bite down. If gum disease isn’t addressed soon, your teeth may begin to fall out.
It’s likely that by the time you reach this stage of periodontal disease, you’ll need a number of dental and periodontal procedures to get your oral health back on track. If you’ve lost teeth or had them extracted, you may need gum or bone grafts, as well as a bridge, dentures, or dental implants.