Gum disease (periodontitis) is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. It’s also closely linked to several health conditions. Research shows that the more aggressive gum disease is, the more challenging it becomes to treat underlying health issues like diabetes, heart disease, or infertility.
Therefore, recognising the early signs and symptoms of gum disease isn’t just good for your smile, it’s essential to overall wellness. Here’s what to look for:
Bleeding gums are not normal or healthy. Oftentimes, bleeding is the first sign of gingivitis, which is 100% reversible with good home care. If you brush and floss properly and daily, bleeding typically improves within two weeks.
Inflammation along your gumlines or around specific teeth typically indicates some type of infection. In the case of gum disease, the swelling is usually caused by plaque or tartar buildup along or just underneath the edges of your gum tissues.
When plaque isn’t removed thoroughly, it calcifies into tartar (calculus.) In time, tartar buildup becomes quite heavy and can expand under the gums, causing them to detach from your teeth. This creates visible buildup along the gumlines and “periodontal pockets” that house bacteria.
Although most of us tend to get a small amount of tartar between routine checkups, moderate to heavy buildup can be detrimental to our teeth and gums.
With tissue detachment and pockets comes gum loss. Untreated gum disease causes gradual exposure of the tooth roots, which tend to be fairly sensitive to external stimuli. Exposed roots are also highly at-risk for developing cavities because they are not protected by denser, stronger tooth enamel.
During your dental exam, we will be able to assess your bone levels around each tooth through an exam and set of X-rays. Visible bone loss indicates bacteria are or have been under the gums, against the roots of the teeth.
With bone loss and tissue detachment comes tooth mobility. Without stable bone to hold your teeth in place, they tend to become loose, shift out of alignment, or completely fall out on their own.
The pockets created underneath your gums tend to harbor food debris during meals. You may notice that you need to floss certain areas every time you eat, or always need a toothpick. “Black triangles” or dark spaces between your teeth are also visible.
Periodontal infections are specifically caused by bacteria lurking deep under the gumlines, which you can’t remove with traditional brushing and flossing. Without professional cleanings, these bacteria tend to create necrotic tissues which then cause persistent bad breath (halitosis.)
Catching gum disease early—while it’s still gingivitis—makes it easier to treat and reverse. But the longer your warning signs go undetected, the greater the strain there is to your teeth and immune system.
If you have any of the above-mentioned symptoms of periodontal disease, reserve an exam and cleaning today.
7 STAR EXPERIENCE
Dr. Manish Shah is a cosmetic dentist with a special interest in porcelain veneers, dental implants and Invisalign in Sydney. He is also a medical doctor with an expertise in sleep & craniofacial pain medicine practising at Smile Concepts.