Whether you’re reading this in your office, on the subway, or in your home, chances are you’re surrounded by people with gum disease — and one of them could be you. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 47.2% of American adults over age 30 are living with periodontal disease, and more than 70% of folks over 70 have it.
Many people don’t know how to spot the signs of gum disease, so they don’t get early treatment. Once the disease progresses, it can cause irreparable damage to your gums, teeth, and overall health.
Our goal at OK Tooth in Midtown Manhattan, New York, is to catch and treat gum disease before it gets out of control, so our team has outlined the five most common signs of periodontitis below to help you recognize when there’s a problem.
Gum disease is a progressive condition that starts off with mild symptoms and eventually advances to a more serious condition. The early stage is called gingivitis, and the later stage is periodontitis.
Healthy gums are pale pink and firm. It’s a common misconception that healthy gums should look bright pink and plump. In fact, those are the first signs of gingivitis.
Light pink gums of varying shades indicate good oral health, but if the hue crosses over to bright pink or red, it’s a sign that your gums are in the early stages of infection. They may also look a bit puffy and feel sensitive to touch.
When bacteria build up on your teeth and gums, they turn into plaque and tartar — sticky, invasive films that invade your gum line and erode your teeth and soft tissues.
If you see a tinge of pink in the sink when you spit out your toothpaste, it could be that you’re brushing your teeth too hard, or it could be a sign of gingivitis. Likewise, if you see some traces of blood on your dental floss, it could mean that you’re flossing too aggressively or too infrequently — or it could point to gum disease.
The good news is that gingivitis is treatable. We usually recommend a thorough cleaning that goes deeper than a regular cleaning. Called scaling and root planing, this treatment reaches below your gum line to remove stubborn tartar so your gums can heal. We may also send you home with a gum disease tray to treat your infection over time.
If you miss the early signs of gingivitis, you may find yourself facing its more advanced form — periodontitis. Here are some signs you’ve let your gum disease get away from you:
Do your teeth seem to have grown taller or longer than they once were? That’s an optical illusion caused by receding gums. As bacteria erodes your gum tissue, more and more of your tooth is exposed, making it appear longer.
This is a serious problem because your gums protect the roots of your teeth, and if those roots become exposed, there’s nothing to keep bacteria at bay.
If you have bad breath all the time, and no amount of mints and gum can subdue the stench, you may have periodontitis. The bacteria that cause the infection in your gums also trigger a foul odor that can’t be fixed with a quick brush and a swish of mouthwash.
The only way to stop the smell is to address the infection. In addition to scaling, root planing, and at-home gum disease trays, we may prescribe an antibiotic to help your body fight off the infection.
You’re meant to keep your teeth for your whole life. Unfortunately, about 120 million Americans are missing a tooth, and more than 36 million are completely toothless. Although tooth loss can stem from injury, normal wear-and-tear, or cancer, the most common cause is gum disease.
If your tooth is loose or wiggly, it’s a sign that infection has caused your gums to pull away from your teeth. In this case, you may be a good candidate for periodontal surgery, which typically begins with a thorough scaling and root planing session.
Depending on the extent of your periodontitis, you may benefit from any of several forms of periodontal surgery, including:
These procedures use different techniques to accomplish the same goal: eliminating infection and restoring your teeth and gums.
If you have any of these signs of gingivitis or periodontitis, schedule an appointment with our dental experts at OK Tooth. Simply call our friendly staff, or book your visit online.