Many people are in denial when it comes to acknowledging gum disease symptoms. They pretend not to notice that their gums have changed color from a healthy pink to a disturbing shade of dark red. Others tell themselves that a little bleeding from the gums is perfectly normal. And the reason they've cut back on brushing teeth is lack of time not because their swollen gums hurt.
Are you one of these people? If so, it's time to face the facts and see your dentist -- because ignoring the warning signs of gum disease is a big mistake with potentially lifelong consequences.
Here are the things you need to know about the symptoms of gum disease, from gingivitis to advanced periodontitis:
How Common Are the Symptoms of Gum Disease?
Statistically it's probable that virtually everyone you know is experiencing various gum disease symptoms. According to the National Institute of Health, nearly 80 percent of U.S. adults currently have some form of gum disease. Conditions can range from a mild gum inflammation that daily brushing and flossing will clear up to a serious, bone-destroying disease requiring aggressive dental care.
The highest incidence of gum disease is seen in people with poor dental hygiene. Men are slightly more likely than women to have gum disease. While adults are consistently the largest demographic to display gum disease symptoms, researchers at Tufts University have found that gum disease affects up to 17 percent of children aged 3-11 years. By puberty, approximately 90 percent of adolescents in this U.S. study showed symptoms of gum disease.
The Many Names and Symptoms of Gum Disease
Gum disease is a catchall term used to describe several conditions including gingivitis, periodontal disease, pyorrhea and ANUG (acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis). No matter the name, gum disease typically begins when the harmful periodontal bacteria in plaque causes an inflammation of the tissues supporting your teeth (i.e. gums). When left untreated the inflammation quickly becomes an infection, which may cause the gums and in some cases the bone to break down. Once an infection advances to the point of affecting the bone the symptoms of gum disease are undeniable and the risks associated with avoiding your dentist become dire. Simply put: The longer you wait to treat gum disease the more likely it is that you will lose teeth ... or worse.
Ranked according to their severity, the three stages of gum disease are:
Gingivitis -- The earliest stage of gum disease, gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums caused by a build up of plaque at the gumline. This condition is highly treatable because the bone and connective tissue holding the teeth have not yet been damaged. Bleeding gums while brushing teeth or flossing is a common gum disease symptom.
Periodontitis - Diagnosis of this condition is bad news. Irreversible damage is occurring to the supporting bone and fibers holding your teeth in place. Professional dental care is essential to prevent periodontitis from causing further damage. Symptoms of periodontal disease include food- and plaque-trapping pockets forming in the gums below the gumline.
Advanced Periodontitis - During the final grim stage of gum disease, the fibers and bones supporting your teeth are destroyed. Loose teeth will shift and often fall out. Aggressive periodontal care is required to contain the damage.
The Top 10: A Checklist of Gum Disease Symptoms
As with many dental conditions, gum disease symptoms range from being quite obvious to being virtually unnoticeable by all but a trained dental professional. The ten most common visible warning signs of gum disease you need to be aware of include:
Even if you don't show any of the most readily identifiable symptoms of gum disease, you may not be off the hook for a progressive condition like gingivitis. Regular dental exams are the only way to ensure that your gums are completely healthy and disease-free. With more subtle cases, it's only after a thorough visual examination and a series of full-mouth X-rays that dentists are able to definitely identify the signs of gum disease.
Next Steps if You Have the Symptoms of Gum Disease
It's important to see a dental professional if you are experiencing bleeding gums or any other gum disease symptoms.
For help finding a dentist specializing in the treatment of gum disease call 1-866-970-0441.