Do You Have Gum Disease? 6 Ways to Find Out
We spend so much time focusing on brushing our teeth that we often overlook the health of our gums. Is it possible that you have gum disease?
The truth is, your gum tissue sets the pace for the rest of your oral health. If your gums become compromised by bacteria and disease, the rest of your mouth is vulnerable to decay and infection.
All of this means that gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a serious health condition that shouldn’t be ignored. Make sure you know how to identify gum disease so that you can get the treatment you need without delay. Timely periodontal disease treatment makes all the difference in your recovery process.
What is Gum Disease?
Bacteria are teeming inside of your mouth, even if you can’t see or feel them. This creates a constant give-and-take between healthy and unhealthy bacteria. When “bad” bacteria overtake the “good” bacteria that cultivate strong oral health, gum disease develops.
There are many different reasons that the dangerous bacteria in your mouth might gain too much power. Smoking, poor brushing, and a high-sugar diet are just a few common causes. Over time, bacteria, sugars, and acids blend to create plaque and tartar that brushing alone can’t remove.
The effects of plaque and tartar begin slowly. You may not even notice the early side effects like swollen gums. These side effects quickly develop into the two stages of gum disease known as gingivitis and periodontitis.
Early Gum Disease: Gingivitis
Gingivitis is the mildest form of periodontal disease. It’s your mouth’s warning sign that you must make changes to protect your teeth and gums from serious damage in the future. Even though gingivitis doesn’t cause overt discomfort, it does present symptoms like red and swollen gums that bleed easily.
As the first stage in the progression of periodontal disease, gingivitis is very common. The CDC estimates that nearly 50% of all American adults have some form of periodontal disease. That’s 65 million people! However, just because it’s common doesn’t mean gingivitis is acceptable. If you fail to improve your brushing, flossing, and dental care habits to reverse gingivitis, it will develop into the more aggressive phase of gum disease known as periodontitis.
Advanced Gum Disease: Periodontitis
Periodontitis isn’t nearly as reversible and easy to treat at gingivitis. It’s definitely not a problem to ignore or shrug off. The plaque that only caused inflamed gums during the gingivitis stage will start to grow below the gum line and produce toxins that stimulate a chronic inflammatory response within your body. This chronic inflammatory response essentially tells the body to attack itself and break down the tissues and bones that support the structure of your mouth.
As a result, untreated periodontitis causes the gums to separate from the teeth and form pockets that quickly become dangerously infected. Gum tissue and bone breakdown further as the teeth surrender to rapid decay. Over time, your teeth become loose and fall out.
Signs You Have Gum Disease
Admitting that you have gum disease may be scary, but ignoring the signs and suffering the future complications is bound to be even scarier.
Pay close attention to the following symptoms so that you can seek treatment for periodontal disease immediately.
1. Chronic Bad Breath
Bad breath occurs when bad bacteria overpower good bacteria in the mouth. If no amount of brushing, mouthwash, and gum can eliminate your halitosis, gum disease could be the culprit. Constant bad breath indicates that your teeth, tongue, and gums are coated in odor-causing bacteria.
2. Tender and Bleeding Gums
Healthy gums are pink and painless. If your gums become swollen and tender to the touch, something is wrong. When your gums begin to bleed, you know you have a problem on your hand.This symptom of gum disease is caused by a buildup of bacteria and plaque irritating and attacking gum tissue.
3. Pain When Chewing Food
Gum disease compromises the integrity of your mouth. It makes your teeth more sensitive, increases the rate of decay, and damages your gums. So it’s not a surprise that gingivitis and periodontitis also cause pain when you chew food.
4. Unexpected Tooth Loss
Untreated periodontal disease takes its toll on the mouth. Over time, unhealthy gum tissue can no longer hold teeth in place. This causes tooth loss. The only way to reverse tooth loss from gum disease is to undergo aggressive gum disease treatment and receive tooth replacements like dentures or implants.
5. Multiple Cavities and Infections
Everybody is vulnerable to cavities, but periodontal disease increases the odds of decay significantly. Widespread plaque and bacteria are the signatures of gum disease. When they have the chance to lurk around your mouth for months or years on end, decay and infection are guaranteed.
6. Receding Gums
The damage to your gums doesn’t stop at swelling and bleeding. Over time, bacteria and plaque attack your gum tissues with such force that the tissue fibers detach from your teeth. This creates the appearance of “longer” teeth as your gum tissue recedes. Gum recession is a major indicator of aggressive periodontal disease.
Other Dangerous Complications of Gum Disease
Researchers have been studying the link between gum disease and cardiovascular disease for decades. Statistics indicate that people with gum disease are two to three times more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiovascular problem, so what’s the connection? Inflammation and bacteria.
The chronc inflammation triggered by periodontitis isn’t isolated to your mouth. It triggers reactions throughout your body and may exacerbate existing cardiovascular risk factors. The toxic bacteria lurking in your mouth as a result of gum disease may also travel through your gut and into your bloodstream, ultimately spreading harmful strains of bacteria to the heart.
Periodontitis is also linked to health conditions like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and respiratory disease. Although there’s not a direct cause-and-effect link, studies show that gum disease creates conditions in the body that increase the likelihood of RA and respiratory disease, often as a result of dangerous bacteria moving through the bloodstream.
How to Seek Treatment For Gum Disease
Fortunately, gingivitis and periodontitis can be controlled or even reversed if it’s caught early. It’s very important to work with your dentist to address gingivitis and periodontitis; only your dentist has the tools and expertise needed to fully combat the plaque, tartar, and bacteria that combined to form gum disease in your mouth.
If your gum disease is still in the earlier stages of gingivitis, you can reverse the damage and reclaim a healthy mouth by taking simple steps toward better oral care:
- Brush and floss at least twice a day
- Use a natural mouthwash
- Visit your dentist every six months for a comprehensive cleaning and exam
- Stop smoking or using chewing tobacco
- Improve your diet to choose healthy whole foods over high-sugar and processed foods
- Try oil pulling to remove toxins and harmful bacteria from your mouth
Once gingivitis progresses into periodontitis, simple at-home measures and basic dentist appointments aren’t enough to stop the damage. You’ll need to visit your dentist for scaling and root planing.
Scaling and root planing achieve a deep and thorough cleaning below the gumline. Local anesthesia is used to minimize discomfort while your dentist scrapes and removes plaque, toxins, and tartar from your teeth and root surfaces. At the end of the treatment, your dentist smoothes the rough area on your roots’ surfaces to stop bacteria and tartar from accumulating under the gumline. This gives your gums the opportunity to heal and reform.
Root scaling and planing are considered the “gold standard” of treatment for chronic periodontitis. Although they can’t reverse periodontitis entirely, they can control existing damage and stop excessive decay and gum erosion in the future.
Gum Disease Treatment in San Diego, CA
It’s important to choose a dentist you can trust for your gum disease treatment. After all, this process will define the future health and function of your entire mouth. Dr. Jon Cassell and his team at Cassell Dentistry in San Diego, CA offer customized gum disease treatment options for patients with every phase of gum disease.
Call today or schedule an appointment online to get the dental care you need without further delay.