Gum disease is a serious threat to your oral and overall health. Not only is is the leading cause of tooth loss among American adults, it can also increase your risk for many systemic health problems, such as heart disease, dementia, stroke, and cancer.
To try to avoid tooth loss and protect your health, it’s important to identify gum disease early. The problem is that gum disease symptoms may be subtle at first, and may be hard to identify. The best way to detect gum disease early is to see your dentist regularly for preventive dentistry. But you can also watch for some of the gum disease symptoms you might perceive.
Symptoms You May See
Gum disease doesn’t have many highly visible symptoms. They don’t stand out, but if you look for them, you can see some symptoms.
The earliest symptom of gum disease is just an appearance of redness and swelling. There may also be bleeding. It may be spontaneous or you may notice it after eating or after brushing and flossing. Your gums shouldn’t bleed after normal eating or routine daily care.
Another visible sign of gum disease is receding gums. You might not know exactly where your gums were to start with, but you can often tell. If you haven’t been to the dentist in awhile, you’ll have a line of tartar deposits that forms at the intersection of teeth and gums. If your gums are receding, there’ll be distance between the tartar and your gums.
Or you might just notice that your teeth seem to be getting longer. Your teeth don’t actually grow as you get older—they’re just looking longer because your gums are receding.
In addition to teeth seeming longer, you might notice the appearance of black triangles between your teeth. Gum tissue should fill this space, but if your gums are affected, they’ll retreated and leave the space open.
If your receding gums get very bad, they will reveal the cementum of your tooth roots. Cementum is a darker color and rougher than tooth enamel. If you see this, it’s a definite sign that your gums are unhealthy and you’re losing bone as well as gum tissue.
Finally, if you notice that your teeth are moving around more than they used to, it’s likely because of gum disease. If your teeth seem more crooked, gapped, or crowded than they used it, you should take it seriously.
Symptoms You May Feel
As with visible symptoms, there aren’t many symptoms you will feel from gum disease. As the disease progresses, though, you will likely start to notice symptoms and, eventually, you won’t be able to ignore them.
The first symptom you’re likely to feel is gums that are tender when you brush, floss or eat. This may or may not coincide with bleeding gums.
You may also notice that more food is starting to get stuck between your teeth or teeth and gums. This is because gum disease is loosening the connections between your teeth and gums, making it easier for food to slip in there.
Receding gums isn’t just a visible problem, either. You’ll notice your teeth are growing more sensitive to changes in temperature. That’s because the tooth root is not as well insulated as the crown. Heat and cold can slip down to the exposed root surfaces before you can see them. In the late stages of gum disease, you may experience jawbone pain. And your teeth might start to feel loose.
Symptoms You May Taste or Smell
Bleeding gums may mean that you regularly taste blood after brushing your teeth or eating. If you notice this, it’s time to talk to a dentist.
You should also talk to a dentist if you have persistent bad breath or a foul taste in the mouth. Gum disease is an infection, and it can smell or taste like an infected wound.
If you have persistent bad breath or a foul taste in your mouth, it’s likely an oral infection, either gum disease or an infected tooth, so it needs attention.
Regular Dental Checkups Can Track Symptoms
If you’re concerned about gum disease, you don’t have to be the only one looking for symptoms. If you make regular dental checkups, your dentist can look for the symptoms. Not only do they have a better view of what’s going on in your mouth, their training can easily distinguish between what’s a worry and what’s not.