Nearly half of adults in America have periodontal disease, an inflammation of the gums which can lead to tooth loss. The warning signs of periodontal disease look different at different stages, and early detection can stop the disease from getting worse. Periodontal disease is preventable and can even be reversed in its earliest stages.
Stages of Periodontal Disease
As periodontal disease progresses, different warning signs will appear. In its early stages, many people don’t notice these signs, or don’t think about them. The earliest stage of periodontal disease is gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums (the gingiva). At this point, the disease is reversible with the right care. If it progresses, it becomes periodontitis, where the tissues around the tooth become infected. The disease can still be stopped at this stage using special techniques like Scaling and Root Planing (SRP), but the damage to the teeth roots cannot be undone. The final stage is chronic periodontitis. At this stage, periodontitis is widespread and affecting multiple areas of the mouth. The infection can cause bone loss in addition to tooth root decay and tooth loss, and this damage cannot be undone.
8 Warning Signs of Periodontal Disease
1. Bleeding Gums when Flossing
This is one of the earliest warning signs of periodontal disease, and one that far too many people overlook. If you don’t floss regularly, you might notice your gums bleed slightly when you try. This leads many people stop flossing all together, but this is the opposite of what you should do. Bleeding gums are the result of inflammation, which means the bacteria around and between teeth are irritating the gums. Regular flossing in addition to brushing stops these bacteria from accumulating and this will help to stop the inflammation.
This symptom alone is a warning sign of the earliest stage of periodontal disease, gingivitis, however this will persist and worsen through latter stages as well.
2. Red Gums
Healthy gums should have a pink color. If your gums are red, purple or otherwise discolored, this is a warning sign of periodontal disease. Your gums may also be puffy and swollen. These are all indications of inflammation, and signs that bacteria are damaging your gums. These signs may appear uniformly throughout your mouth, or they may appear in certain areas. If you notice these signs, see your dentist as soon as you can. Make sure you are brushing twice a day and flossing once a day, even if your gums bleed. Replacing sugary drinks with water can also help reduce the inflammation and correct the problem.
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3. Gums Pulling Away From Tooth
As periodontal disease develops, bacteria often hide and multiply in the spaces between the roots and the teeth. The bacteria produce acids and plaque which, if not removed through flossing or dental care, can become a hard substance called calculus. This causes the spaces between teeth to deepen and the gums to recede from the teeth. At this stage, you may notice that your teeth appear slightly longer in some areas.
4. Sensitivity to Hot or Cold
As the gums recede, you may also notice more sensitivity in some of your teeth. This is because parts of the teeth roots are exposed, which are directly connected to nerves in the tooth. Normally, the surfaces of your teeth which contact hot or cold substances are covered by tough enamel, so these sensations don’t cause pain. However, when cold or hot foods or drinks touch the exposed tooth root, the nerves send pain signals to the brain.
5. Loose Teeth
This is a warning sign of more advanced periodontal disease, periodontitis. As periodontitis persists, bacteria erode the gums, teeth roots, and even the jaw bone, all which hold teeth firmly in place. When these structures weaken, teeth will become loose, or their positions may shift slightly. If you notice this, it’s very important to see your dentist as soon as possible to prevent tooth loss.
A number of different diseases can cause sores to appear inside your mouth and one of them is periodontal disease. As the infection in and around the gums gets worse, sores or abscesses can appear as your body struggles to fight back. These are another sign of advanced periodontal disease, and you should see your dentist immediately if you notice them.
7. Bad Breath
Bad breath happens to all of us periodically, but persistent bad breath that does not go away when brushing or using breath mints is a sign of a problem. As bacteria multiply, they produce gasses which cause bad breath. This can be a sign of periodontal disease or other conditions linked to bacterial, viral, or fungal infection.
Pain from periodontal disease does not usually appear until the teeth roots or the jaw bone are damaged. At this stage, the damage is advanced; bone loss and tooth loss may be irreversible. Since pain does not appear until later stages, this makes it easier to ignore other warning signs of periodontal disease. However, the absence of pain does not mean an absence of disease.
Detecting periodontal disease in its early stages can protect your teeth from damage later on. When the first warning signs of periodontal disease appear, the disease can be reversed with diligent oral hygiene and gum treatment from a dentist. If calculus has formed underneath the gum line, this too can be reversed with deep cleaning, also called Scaling and Root Planing (SRP). Even advanced periodontal disease can be stopped with the right treatment, but the damage it causes to teeth, teeth roots and the jawbone is permanent. To stop periodontal disease from damaging your teeth, brush twice daily, floss once daily, avoid sugary drinks and foods, and see your dentist twice a year.
Periodontal Treatment in Las Vegas, Henderson, Laughlin, & Lake Havasu
Our staff at Boston Dental Group operates many dental offices throughout Southern Nevada and Arizona. If you think you are showing signs of periodontitis, please schedule an appointment at one of our offices. We provide frequent discounts for the treatment of mild and moderate periodontal diseases, and can provide you with a recommendation to a trusted periodontist in advanced cases.