Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults, wrecking more smiles than decay and injury combined. It's also a widespread condition; some dental experts think nearly all adults have it to some degree, with up to half having a severe enough case for the symptoms to be noticeable.
The good news is that gum disease is relatively easy to treat in its early to middle stages when it's given the name gingivitis. There need not be any lasting damage if caught early enough. What are the telltale symptoms for which to be on the lookout?
One of the first noticeable effects of gingivitis is soft and tender gums which bleed easily. If you spot traces of blood after eating foods such as crisp apples, or after brushing and flossing, then don't ignore the warning.
If your gums become visibly swollen and puffy and feel tender to the touch, this is almost certainly a sign of gingivitis or even its more advanced form of periodontitis.
Itching or Pain
Some allergies can cause itching gums, or it can be a reaction to ill-fitting dentures or braces, but if you feel itchiness or even pain in combination with other symptoms, then gum disease is a likely culprit.
If you notice a discharge of a white, thick liquid from the base of your teeth, you should book an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. This seepage can indicate an abscess or infection, but it's also a potential sign of advanced gum disease which needs urgent treatment to prevent tooth loss.
Bad breath, or halitosis, can be caused by many things, from poor dental hygiene to underlying medical issues such as poor liver function. However, if you have a constant unpleasant taste in your mouth and odor on your breath, even after thorough brushing, then gum disease is a strong possibility.
What Should You Do if You Suspect Gingivitis?
If you think you may have gum disease, a visit to your dentist can confirm it or rule it out. Mild cases usually are curable with an improved dental hygiene routine, with which your dentist can help you. However, if your gum disease has taken hold more deeply, then you may need to undergo a deep-cleaning treatment known as root planing, usually done under local anesthetic. You may also be given a course of antibiotics to remove underlying infections.
However, gum disease needn't get to the stage where surgery is essential or tooth loss unavoidable. By focusing on your dental hygiene habits and keeping an eye out for the early symptoms, you can stop gum disease in its tracks before it does any real damage.