Gum disease (or periodontal disease) affects millions of people every year, and it’s the leading cause of tooth loss among adults. Yet many people have no idea they have gum disease until they develop loose teeth or severe pain. That’s because gum disease often causes few symptoms in its early stages, making it easy to overlook until major problems occur.
So how does gum disease occur?
Gum disease begins when bacteria gather along the gum line and between teeth, where it’s easy for them to hide. In this stage, few symptoms – if any – occur. As these bacteria multiply, they emit toxins that cause the gums to pull away, or recede, from teeth, leaving more of the tooth exposed to plaque and tartar. Once the bacteria move below the gum line to the tooth root area, they can’t be removed with brushing and flossing alone. This is the advanced stage of gum disease when tooth loss can occur.
How can I tell if I need to see a periodontist?
While advanced gum disease can be treated, the treatments are more extensive and more costly. But when the disease is caught early, it’s much easier – and less expensive – to treat. Seeing a periodontist is the best way to know for sure if you have gum disease, but there are a few signs and symptoms you can watch out for that can help you determine if you might need to see your periodontist for an evaluation and possibly treatment:
- Your gums are red, swollen or bleeding, especially during brushing and flossing. These are often the first and most common signs your gums are under attack from harmful bacteria.
- You have chronic bad breath or a sour or unpleasant taste in your mouth. Bacterial buildup and the toxins bacteria produce can cause bad breath or a sour taste that tends to return even after brushing.
- Your gums are receding or there are deep pockets between teeth and gums.
- Your teeth are shifting out of their normal alignment or they feel loose.
- You’ve noticed changes in your bite pattern. As teeth become loose, they can cause differences in the way your mouth “feels” when biting or chewing.
- You have pain when eating. Once bacteria causes infection around the tooth root, biting down can cause pressures that result in pain in and around the tooth and gum.
- Your teeth are sensitive to extreme temperatures. Likewise, once the root area is involved and gums have receded to expose more of the root, your teeth can become very sensitive to temperature changes.
- You have a family history of gum disease. Studies have shown some factors that contribute to gum disease may run in families. If you have a family member – especially a parent, grandparent or sibling – with gum disease, you should see a periodontist for an evaluation.
- You smoke or you used to smoke. Smoking impairs circulation so gums don’t get the oxygen and nutrients they need to stay healthy. When gums aren’t in optimal health, they can’t ward off infection or bacterial invasion as well as they can when they’re healthy, making them more prone to developing gum disease.
- You have diabetes. The bacteria that are responsible for gum disease thrive on sugar, and people with diabetes tend to have higher levels of sugar in their saliva. Plus, diabetes can also impair circulation necessary to keep gums healthy and sound.
- You’ve never had an evaluation by a periodontist. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says half of all adults over age 30 have some form of gum disease, so if you’re 30 or older and haven’t been evaluated or you haven’t seen a periodontist recently, you should schedule an evaluation as soon as possible to make sure you get the treatment you need to ward off gum disease.
Think you may have gum disease? Take the Gum Disease Test!
Tooth loss can have a significant impact on your overall health and other aspects of your life, including your self-esteem. The Advanced Institute for Oral Health has served as Nashville’s number 1 periodontist for over 25 years. If you have any risk factors for gum disease, or you’re experiencing any of these signs or symptoms, make an appointment with us and take the first critical steps in preserving your dental health.