Do you have gum disease? According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, about half of the adults in America have a mild, moderate or severe form of this disease. But if you’re 65 or older, your chance of having it goes up to 70 percent! Periodontal (gum) disease is sometimes called a “silent malady” because major symptoms may not appear until it has reached an advanced stage. How can you recognize the early warning signs? Here are some clues to look for:
- Redness and irritation of gums. Having red, swollen or sore gums can be a sign of gum disease; however, it could also result from brushing your teeth too vigorously, or using a brush with hard bristles. That’s why we recommend using a soft-bristled brush and a gentle cleaning stroke. If you’re doing this but you still have irritated gums, it could be an early signal of gum disease.
- Bleeding when you brush. Despite what you may think, this is never a normal occurrence. If your gums regularly bleed after brushing, it’s usually an indication that gum disease is present. You should come in for an examination as soon as possible.
- Bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth. Bad breath or unpleasant tastes could be caused by what you ate last night — or they could result from gum disease. If the odor or taste is persistent — that is, if it doesn’t seem to go away over time — it could indicate a problem with your gums.
- Gum recession. When you have gum recession, the healthy, pink tissue surrounding the teeth begins to pull back, or recede. This exposes more of the tooth’s structure — even its roots — and makes teeth look longer. While gum recession is a common condition that is primarily caused by periodontal disease, many people don’t realize they have it because it occurs so gradually. They also may not realize that by the time it is noticed, some underlying bone tissue has already been lost. Gum recession is a condition you shouldn’t ignore: If left untreated, it can result in the destruction of more gum and bone tissue, and even tooth loss.
- Tooth Sensitivity or pain when chewing. Many things can cause tooth pain or sensitivity: an old filling, tooth decay, even a cracked tooth or a root canal problem. Gum disease can also cause this unpleasant sensation. Receding gums may expose the tooth’s roots, which aren’t as well protected from the mouth’s harsh environment as the chewing surfaces; this may cause a sensation of pain when chewing or brushing. If this sensation persists, it’s time for an examination to find out what’s causing it.
Gum disease is a widespread problem — but it’s also very treatable. If you would like more information, call our office to arrange a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Warning Signs of Periodontal (Gum) Disease” and “Understanding Gum (Periodontal) Disease.”