Gum disease can have a serious effect on your oral health, comfort and confidence. Left untreated, gum disease can lead to pain, infection, missing teeth, and even some serious health issues. Early treatment can prevent the complications of gum disease. First, though, you have to determine if you have gum disease.
Only a dentist can diagnose gum disease, but you may be able to tell if you have the oral health problem if you have certain signs and symptoms.
Gum disease is a progressive condition, which means it gets worse over time. There are two main stages of gum disease - mild and severe. The mild form of the disease, known as gingivitis, is relatively easy to treat.
Left untreated, though, gingivitis can turn into the more severe type of gum disease that is harder to treat. This advanced form of gum disease, known as periodontitis, is much harder to treat and can cause considerable pain. Periodontal disease can even damage the jawbone that holds your teeth in place - without professional periodontal treatment, you may lose one or more teeth.
Ways to Tell if You have Gum Disease
Look at your gums
Gum disease causes your gums to swell up, or become inflamed, to look red and puffy. Inflammation can cause your gums to pull away from your teeth and recede. Receding gums makes your teeth look longer.
Feel for tender gums
Inflammation can cause your gums to feel tender. Press lightly on your gums, especially over the area you suspect of having a gum infection. If it hurts to touch your gums, you may have gum disease.
Check for bleeding when you brush
Food, saliva and bacteria combine to form plaque, which is a sticky substance that can cover your teeth and gums. Inflammation can cause pockets to develop between your teeth and the affected gum. Plaque can get trapped in these pockets, where the bacteria in plaque can do more damage to teeth and gums.
If your gums bleed when you brush your teeth, you probably have gum disease. In fact, plaque is the primary cause of bleeding gums. Plaque and tartar can damage inflamed skin to promote bleeding.
Test your breath
Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is a sign of advanced gum disease. The bacteria that cause gum disease can interact with the food you eat to cause halitosis.
The best way to test your breath is to lick the inside of your wrist, let it dry for a couple of seconds, and then to smell it. You can also ask a trusted friend to tell you have you have halitosis.
Bad taste in your mouth
Gum disease and the bacteria that trigger it can cause a bad taste in your mouth. Many people describe the taste as bitter, metallic, or sour. While the bad taste disappears immediately after you brush, it can return just a few hours later.
Review your risk factors for gum disease
Certain factors increase your risk for developing gum disease. These risk factors include:
- Smoking or using chewing tobacco
- Poor oral hygiene - if you do not brush and floss regularly, you may develop gum disease
- Stress, which can wear down your immune system
- Heredity - if one or both of your parents has had gum disease, you may be at greater risk for gingivitis or periodontitis
- Crooked teeth, which can make it hard to brush away gingivitis
- An underlying condition that affects your immune system
- Fillings that have become worn away, chip, or crack
- Taking medications that cause dry mouth, as saliva rinses away bacteria and plaque
- Improperly-fitting dental bridges that can apply extra pressure to gums, which can lead to gum disease
- Female hormonal changes associated with pregnancy or the use of oral contraceptives
Visit your dentist
Visiting your dentist at a dental checkup is the best way to tell if you have gum disease. At Preston Dental Loft, our Cary, North Carolina dentist can provide a diagnosis and gum disease treatment to help keep your teeth healthy and preserve your dazzling smile.