If you’ve noticed a bit of blood when you floss or brush, or some swelling around a tooth, there’s a good chance that you have a mild case of gum disease. It’s fairly common; in fact, at least one in three Australians will develop periodontal disease at some point in their lives. And, when it is mild, there isn’t much to worry about. But, if you don’t treat gum disease, it can jeopardise your oral health. Let’s look at the most common gum disease symptoms, and what you should do to maintain your oral health.
Understanding The Stages Of Gum Disease
The first stage of gum disease is known as gingivitis, which is inflammation of the soft tissue around a tooth. Gingivitis is common and is often cleared away by brushing and flossing. In fact, if you do notice red or swollen gums or a bit of tenderness it’s important that you don’t stop brushing and flossing the area because this is what clears the bacteria away.
The inflammation is usually caused by a build-up of plaque that may have calcified, resulting in tartar. This attracts more bacteria to the area, which may result in an infection.
If you do not address gum inflammation, it progresses to a more advanced stage called periodontal disease. This occurs when the infection travels below your gum line and starts to infect the structures that anchor your teeth in your gums.
What Are The Most Common Gum Disease Symptoms?
It is possible to have gum disease and not to present with any symptoms. Visiting your dentist every six months gives your dental professional a chance to check on the health of your gum tissue and to pick up any potential problems before it is too late.
Swelling and inflammation
Most periodontitis begins with an infection above the gum line. This is typified by swelling, perhaps a little bleeding when flossing or brushing and maybe a little gum tenderness. You may experience pain or sensitivity when biting down or with temperature changes. Remember that healthy gums are pink and firm to the touch.
Your mouth is full of bacteria, which you ordinarily keep under control with twice-daily brushing and flossing.
When you have gum disease, the bacteria in your mouth are out of control and multiply. The result of this is bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth, which may persist despite brushing and flossing.
When periodontal disease is more advanced you may notice other symptoms such as:
Receding gums or enlarged teeth
Once the infection moves below the gum line, it wears down the gum tissue, causing pockets to open up between the gum and tooth. This is problematic because the big spaces made by the pockets mean that more bacteria can be attracted and the infection can get worse. The effect may present as smaller gums or larger-looking teeth.
Loose or drifting teeth
Over time, periodontal pockets and loss of underlying bone can cause your teeth to loosen, shift or even fall out. This may even affect the way your jaws fit together when you bite down.
How Is Gum Disease Treated?
If you have gingivitis, treatments can reverse any signs of the disease. If yours has progressed to periodontitis, it will not be possible to reverse any damage and your dentist may only be able to prevent it from doing further damage.
Your treatment plan would be focused on
- Reducing swelling
- Promoting the tooth to reattach
- Cleaning out and reducing the size of periodontal pockets
- Preventing progression of the disease
How this is achieved may differ between patients, but deep cleaning of the tooth roots is usually required. Your dentist will remove bacteria from your tooth roots and may straighten them out afterwards, which may help the roots to reattach to your teeth. Special instrumentation is used to clean below the gum line. Sometimes a course of antibiotics is necessary, to help address the infection. If you are given antibiotics, you must complete the course.
In very advanced cases, where tooth roots are exposed, it may be necessary to perform gum graft surgery to cover them up.
How You Can Prevent It?
Brushing and flossing twice a day is necessary to keep bacteria under control, and to remove plaque build-up from your teeth. Because your mouth is dark and full of small spaces, you also need to visit your dentist every six months so that the health of your gums and teeth can be assessed. Even if you haven’t noticed early warning signs of gingivitis, your dentist will be able to.
Quit smoking if you are still a smoker. Smokers are more susceptible to diseases of the gums and their mouths are more difficult to keep clean. Quitting may help you to avoid recurring infections of your gums and soft tissue.
Remember also that you are more susceptible if you are pregnant or going through hormonal changes. You may also be more susceptible during or just after an illness.
If you’d like to know more about gum disease symptoms or book your next consultation, please contact us for an appointment:
Phone: (02) 9158 6213
Pyrmont NSW 2009
Phone: (02) 9158 6756
Illawong, NSW 2234
Phone: (02) 9159 6083
Sylvania Waters NSW 2224