4 Telltale Signs of Gum Disease

Sep 01, 2023
4 Telltale Signs of Gum Disease
Mild gum disease becomes a severe infection without treatment, putting you at risk of tooth loss. Learning the telltale signs of gum disease allows you to protect your dental health by seeking early treatment.

Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is the leading cause of tooth loss. Unfortunately, it is more common than you may realize.

Periodontal disease affects nearly half of people over 30, and your risk increases as you age. In fact, seven in 10 adults over 65 have gum disease.

Recognizing the signs of gum problems allows you to seek periodontal disease treatment before it reaches an advanced stage.

Roy Hudgens, DMD, at Hudgens Dental, located in Charleston, South Carolina, has extensive experience treating every stage of gum disease. But he wants you to know that early treatment prevents serious complications. 

How gum disease develops

Gum disease doesn’t appear overnight. It develops gradually, giving you time to identify signs and take steps to protect your dental health.

Stage 1: Plaque

When you eat carbohydrates, sugars from the carbs combine with bacteria and saliva, creating plaque. This sticky substance holds the bacteria on your teeth.

At this stage, you can lower your risk for gum disease with diligent brushing and flossing to remove plaque.

Stage 2: Tartar

Plaque that stays on your teeth hardens into tartar within a few days. You can’t eliminate tartar by brushing, which is why getting a dental check-up every six months is so important. During your check-up, we use special tools to remove tartar.

The problem with plaque and tartar is that they hold living bacteria against your teeth. In addition to giving bacteria time to erode tooth enamel and cause cavities, it also makes it easy for bacteria to get below your gum line. That’s when gum disease begins.

Stage 3: Gum infection

As bacteria invade your gums, they cause inflammation and an infection (gingivitis). At this point, it’s essential to start treatment for the disease and stop it from progressing deeper into your gums.

Stage 4: Periodontal disease

Without treatment, gingivitis progresses and causes periodontal disease, the most advanced form of gum disease. The resulting infection causes serious problems, such as:

  • Gum damage 
  • Gums pull away from the teeth
  • Bacteria reach the tooth root
  • Inflammation erodes the supportive bone
  • Periodontal ligaments weaken (these tissues hold the teeth in place)
  • Damage loosens the tooth

Ultimately, periodontitis leads to tooth loss.

Signs of gum disease

Plaque and tartar don’t cause symptoms until they cause decay or inflammation. You can’t see plaque because it’s colorless and blends in with your teeth. However, you can see tartar.

Tartar accumulates around your gum line and is a different color than your natural enamel. Additionally, tartar absorbs stains faster than the teeth. You might notice a yellowish or brown line around your teeth where they meet the gums.

The four telltale signs of gingivitis are:

  1. Gums that bleed when brushing
  2. Red gums
  3. Swollen or tender gums
  4. Bad breath

Signs of advanced periodontal disease include:

  • Sores on your gums (caused by the infection)
  • Receding gums (your teeth may look longer than usual)
  • Open areas (pockets) at the base of your teeth 
  • Change in your bite (your teeth don’t fit together correctly when biting)
  • Dentures no longer fit properly
  • Loose teeth

Don’t wait to schedule an exam at Hudgens Dental at the first sign of gum disease.

Complications caused by gum disease

Gum disease puts you at risk of losing teeth. But it also impacts your entire body.

The bacteria responsible for gum disease eventually find their way into your bloodstream. Then, the bacteria can travel through your body, causing systemic inflammation and infection. This type of inflammation is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, high blood sugar, and respiratory diseases like pneumonia.

Call Hudgens Dental or use online booking today to schedule a thorough check-up and get expert treatment for gum disease.