Periodontal (gum) diseases are sometimes called “silent” because those who have them may not experience painful symptoms. But certain signs point to the existence of these common diseases. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, it is time to visit our office so these problems can be treated before they lead to serious infection and loss of teeth.
Gums that bleed during the brushing of teeth. Some people think that gums bleed from brushing too hard. In fact, healthy gum tissues will not bleed with normal brushing. The usual cause of bleeding gums is an accumulation of dental plaque in the areas where your teeth meet your gums. Plaque is a film of bacteria, called a biofilm, which accumulates on your teeth. If you are not brushing and flossing effectively, plaque irritates your gum tissues and causes an inflammation and swelling called gingivitis. This causes your gums to bleed easily on contact with a toothbrush or floss.
Gum tissues that appear red and swollen. If plaque is allowed to accumulate for 24 hours or more, the inflammation in your gum tissues becomes chronic. The continuous presence of bacteria makes it impossible for your body's natural defenses to fight the infection. Chronic inflammation leads to a breakdown of the normal attachment between the teeth and the gums, causing the formation of “pockets.” Inside these pockets the infection continues to attack the tissues that support your teeth. Eventually this can lead to a breakdown of the bone that surrounds your teeth.
Bad breath. Bad breath is another sign of accumulated plaque. The bacteria in plaque may emit gases that have an unpleasant odor.
Gums that are sensitive to hot or cold. Chronic inflammation can also cause the gums to recede, exposing the roots of the teeth in which nerves may be close to the surface, leading to sensitivity to heat and cold.
Teeth that are getting loose, or a painful area in the gums. If you experience these symptoms, the infection has progressed a long way from the “silent” stage. It is time to seek immediate professional help.
If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, a professional dental examination is in order. With daily removal of plaque by effective brushing and flossing, along with frequent professional cleanings to remove any plaque that you were unable to catch, you will go a long way to preventing periodontal disease. Also, be aware that smoking tends to mask the effects of gum disease. Generally, if you smoke your gums will not bleed when brushing or flossing, nor will they show signs of swelling.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about gum disease. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Bleeding Gums” and “Warning Signs of Periodontal (Gum) Disease.”