February is National Gum Disease Awareness month, so we are doing our part to draw attention to the issue. Fully 2/3s of Americans deal with gum disease at some point in their lives, making it one of the more common health issues facing us today. While common, gum disease is also often misunderstood. By learning a little more about the symptoms and causes of gum disease, we’ll all be in a better position to help prevent it and to know when to seek treatment or professional help.
Symptoms of Gum Disease
Let’s start with the symptoms of gum disease, which can vary from mild to painful. Gum disease, also called periodontitis, can manifest in a number of ways, including:
- Swollen or puffy gums
- Discolored gums, gums turning red, dark red, or purple
- Gums that feel tender when touched or during toothbrushing
- Gums which bleed easily
- A pink tinge to your toothbrush after brushing
- Spitting out blood when brushing or flossing your teeth
- Bad breath
- Pus emerging from between your teeth and gums
- Loose teeth
- Loss of teeth
- Pain while chewing or speaking
- New spaces developing between your teeth
- Gums that pull away from your teeth (recede), making your teeth look longer than normal
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
What To Do About Gum Disease
If you notice any of these symptoms or a combination thereof, it could be time to make a dentist appointment for an exam and cleaning. This will give your dentist a chance to look into the issue and see what the problem is. From there, they can suggest a course of treatment.
Treating gum disease is best done via prevention. The keys to preventing gum disease are regular brushing and flossing, a healthy diet, and trips to the dentist for exams and cleanings. There are several risk factors for periodontitis/gum disease, which may contribute to the likelihood of it occurring.
- Poor brushing and flossing habits
- Tobacco use, including both smoking and chewing tobacco, and vaping or marijuana use
- Hormonal changes, such as those related to pregnancy or menopause
- Inadequate nutrition, including vitamin C deficiency
- Medications that cause dry mouth
- Conditions that cause decreased immunity, such as leukemia, HIV/AIDS, and cancer treatment
In addition, there are correlations between gum disease and some other ailments, like Crohn’s Disease and diabetes. If you deal with any of these conditions, it’s important that you let your dentist know so they can adjust your treatment accordingly. Gum disease can affect other illnesses, as well. The bacteria which cause periodontitis can enter your bloodstream and exacerbate other ailments. Respiratory disease, rheumatoid arthritis, coronary artery disease, and diabetes are all subject to complications stemming from gum disease, so if you have any of these conditions you’ll want to be extra careful.
We’re writing this blog during the pandemic, and we should note that there are some important correlations between oral health and COVID19. In particular, patients with gum disease have longer recovery times from COVID and are more likely to need a respirator. Please use caution, wear a mask, and be wise in your social life and out of the house activities.