Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in the adult population. One reason for this staggering statistic is that it’s often a hidden problem. In many cases, gum disease is invisible to the naked eye, and often painless. It’s only when you visit the dentist that the problem will be diagnosed. However, if you know what to look for, there are plenty of ways to actively identify the early signs. In this informational post, we’ll explain the science behind gum disease, and help you spot the warning signs.
Gum disease isn’t just isolated to the mouth. Left untreated, the condition may spread throughout the body. Gum disease has even been linked to lung disease, diabetes and even cancer. That’s because it spreads deep into the tissue of your gums, and begins to affect your entire system. As you can imagine, it pays to maintain your oral health, and spot the early signs of damage, before it’s too late. Before we move onto the symptoms and diagnoses, let’s learn a bit more about gum disease.
The technical terms
Gingivitis – Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease. It often goes unnoticed by patients, as there are no visible signs of trouble. You may feel a slight irritation on your gums, or under the tissue. So, what exactly causes this problem? Quite simply, it’s all to do with plaque. Plaque is a sticky buildup of bacteria that coats your teeth. It is easily removed by regular brushing and general oral health. But, left to develop, it will begin to spread, and may infiltrate below your gums. At this point, they’ll often start to become red and swollen.
Periodontitis – Periodontitis is the next stage of gum disease. It’s much more severe, and can cause adverse affects to the rest of the body. At this point, the gingivitis has spread from the gums into the bones and ligaments that hold your teeth. It will slowly pull your gums away from the teeth, leaving small holes. Plaque will creep into these holes, and accentuate the problem. Now, here’s the important thing about plaque. Left untreated, it will harden, and turn into tartar. It will expand, and slowly push the teeth and gums apart. At best, this is irritating. At worst, it is painful, and will eventually lead to tooth loss.
Ideally, you want to catch gum diseases in the gingivitis stage. Before the disease spreads beneath your gums, and into the tissue structure surrounding your mouth. The earliest warning signs are fairly simple, but it’s easy to ignore them:
Red gums – We’ll often ignore red gums. After all, that could be anything! But, persistent red gums could be the early signs of gum disease. If it’s accompanied by irritation, it’s time to make an appointment with your doctor. It’s also worth noting that you should check your children’s gums at the same time. Family dentistry is very important, and kids can get gum disease too.
Bleeding – Again, bleeding is something we tend to ignore occasionally. We usually attribute it to brushing too hard. Take it from us, any bleeding from the mouth is a bad sign, and should be looked at immediately. It’s one of the earliest signs of gum disease, and it pays to catch it early.
So far we’ve covered the signs of gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease. If it starts to develop into periodontitis, you certainly won’t be able to ignore the symptoms any more. Here’s what to look for:
Bad breath and metallic taste – Persistent halitosis or bad breath is a common symptom of gum disease. It’s a result of the bacteria thriving, and spreading deep into the tissue of your gums.
Gum recession and abscesses – If you notice large abscesses or ulcers, it could be a sign of periodontitis. If they start to bleed, see your dentist immediately.
Loose teeth – As we have explained, the hard tartar will begin to force your teeth out of position. If they begin to feel loose and wobbly, it could be a dangerous sign.
Difficulty swallowing and fevers – In the latest stages of gum disease, you’ll start to get warning signs further away from the teeth and gums themselves. Your throat and tongue will swell, and you’ll struggle to swallow.
Checkups – If you’re getting checked out every six months, as suggested, your dentist will spot the early signs. They’ll pick up on plaque buildup, and take the necessary action. If they spot advanced signs of periodontitis however, they’ll use more sophisticated methods.
3D imaging and X-Ray – Many modern dentists are now using sophisticated 3D imaging machines. It’s a big step forward from the traditional X-Ray machines, and it gives a detailed image of the mouth. It gives dentists an unprecedented view at your teeth and gums. It will help them to see how far gum disease has taken hold, and where the problems are. It’s less invasive than traditional techniques, and much more efficient. It shows dentists everything from the length and strength of teeth roots to nerve proximity.
Preventative dentistry – To prevent the spread of gum disease, dentists will use a series of preventative techniques. In some cases, dentists will provide fluoride treatments. This strengthens teeth, and helps prevent further damage from plaque. You may also be offered sealants, which are very easy to apply. Again, they add strength to weak teeth, and will help prevent future gum problems.
Cleaning – Your dentist will also give your teeth a clinical cleaning. This will remove the dangerous plaque that is covering your gums and teeth. If tartar has developed, it’s impossible to remove without professional assistance. Your dentist will use special tools to remove gum disease problems. It starts with scaling, and it involves a sharp, curved tool to remove harder tartar. They may also use an air pressure tool to blast away stubborn bacteria. Finally, they’ll sometimes use a gritty paste and professional floss.
Lastly, they’ll advise you on a better oral health routine. That means brushing twice a day using a specific tooth paste. It will involve flossing and even a specific diet. If you’re worried about the symptoms of gum disease, see your dentist immediately.
To schedule a regular check up for you or a family member Call Today (832) 222.0016