Millions of Americans suffer from gum disease, and many do not even know it. The signs of gum disease can be subtle and often go unnoticed by the patient. It is important to understand the signs of gum disease so that you can catch it as early as possible. As with every dental problem, the sooner you detect it, the simpler and less expensive it is to treat!
Early Signs of Gum Disease
When gum disease begins, it starts with a superficial inflammation called gingivitis. This early stage of gum disease actually causes more noticeable signs than late stage gum disease. Some people mistakenly assume that when these signs and symptoms go away, their gum disease has gotten better. If that person did not undergo any dental treatment, this is a false assumption.
The inflammation of gingivitis is a response to the toxins produced by the bacteria in dental plaque. This inflammatory response increases the blood flow to the site of the toxins. When there is inflammation in the gums, this increased blood flow makes them bleed much more easily. The simple motion of brushing the teeth or flossing can break these delicate surface blood vessels, causing bleeding.
It is important to understand that healthy gums do not bleed with brushing and flossing. If you are using normal oral hygiene practices, and you have bleeding, you probably have an area of inflammation.
Gums that are Sore when Brushing or Flossing
The increased blood flow of the inflammatory process also adds pressure to the site of “injury”, which most of our body parts translate into pain. That soreness is aggravated when you touch it, so brushing and flossing inflamed gums may cause increased tenderness.
Healthy gums do not hurt when you brush or floss with the correct technique. Obviously, you could make your gums hurt by brushing or flossing with too much force. But in general, normal brushing and flossing will not cause any tenderness in the gums when they are healthy.
Gums that Appear Puffy or Bright Red
In addition to the bleeding and soreness of inflammation, gingivitis can change the appearance of the gums. The increased blood flow of the inflammatory response to dental plaque can also make the gums look swollen and bright red in appearance. Healthy gums should appear flat and pink in color. They should not look bulbous or rounded.
Signs of Periodontal Disease
Without dental treatment, gingivitis progresses into full-blown periodontal disease, and some of the early signs and symptoms may go away. The disease is not going away. The symptoms simply change from those related to acute inflammation to those related to chronic inflammation.
As chronic inflammation takes over, it begins destroying the bone, ligament and gums surrounding the teeth. We call this “loss of attachment” as the teeth lose the support of the surrounding tissues. This loss is often accompanied by receding gums. Gum recession exposes the roots of teeth, making teeth appear longer.
Loss of Papillae/Black Triangles
The papillae are the thin points of gum tissue extending to the point where two teeth meet. As teeth lose their attachment due to gum disease, they also lose these papillae. Without the gum tissue filling in the space between two teeth, an empty space develops, and it appears as a black triangle. Black triangles not only have an unattractive appearance; they also collect food, making oral hygiene more challenging.
Looseness of Teeth
As teeth lose their attachment to surrounding structures, they can loosen. Looseness is a sign of late stage periodontal disease. Treatment of gum disease after teeth become loose has a lower success rate than earlier treatment.
The pockets and gaps around the teeth that accompany gum disease are collecting spots for dental plaque and food debris. The disease-causing bacteria give off foul-smelling gases, and the food debris adds to the bad odor. (Just think about the smell of a kitchen trash can. . .) To put it bluntly, chronic periodontal disease literally stinks!
More Questions about Gum Disease?
Call Rockland Dental Specialists to schedule a consultation with our wonderful gum specialists. We can answer any question you have, assess your current situation, and recommend the best course of action to prevent further damage from gum disease.