Getting gum disease under control starts with learning how to recognize its early warning signs.

Periodontal disease, often referred to as gum disease, is a very common oral health issue, coming in just behind tooth decay in terms of prevalence.

There are two types of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontitis.

Gingivitis is the more mild form of gum disease, largely characterized by gum inflammation. Periodontitis is the most advanced form of gum disease, characterized by both chronic inflammation and infection, and the damage it causes is permanent.

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, it’s estimated that half of Americans over the age of 30 have periodontitis.

The number of adults who suffer from gingivitis is difficult to estimate, meaning the actual percentage of adults with any form of gum disease could be much higher than 50%.

In many cases of undiagnosed periodontal disease, patients aren’t aware of the problem until it’s discovered by their dentist. This is often due to gum disease symptoms being subtle, particularly when gingivitis and inflammation are still in its early stages.

You can help protect your gum health by becoming familiar with the most common symptoms of periodontal disease.

Look out for these 6 common symptoms of gum disease.

Gum disease and inflammation of the gums go hand-in-hand. Typically gingivitis will occur when plaque build-up on the teeth begins to irritate the gums, causing inflammation. Without treatment, this inflammation becomes chronic, eventually leading to periodontitis.

With that in mind, here are some symptoms that often occur when gums are inflamed or already infected.

1. Your gums look swollen, red, and irritated.

Inflamed gums often look puffy and red. Sometimes you can even feel swelling if you lightly press your gums with a fingertip. Gingivitis also tends to cause redness immediately surrounding the tooth, even if the rest of the gums are still a healthy shade of pink.

2. Your gums bleed after brushing or flossing.

Light bleeding from the gums is abnormal. If you’re using proper brushing and flossing techniques but seeing blood on your floss or pink when you spit, be sure to bring this up to your dentist.

3. You can’t seem to get rid of your bad breath.

Chronic bad breath, or halitosis, is linked to gingivitis and, most especially, periodontitis. If you have plaque build-up or a gum infection, even the best minty fresh oral care products won’t be able to help.

4. Your gums feel tender or painful when eating.

Gum inflammation generally leads to tenderness and eventually pain. You’ll usually feel this discomfort when brushing, flossing, eating, or when you bite your teeth together.

5. Your teeth feel wiggly or your gums are receding.

As gum disease progresses, your gums will recede and teeth can feel loose in their sockets, to the point that you can physically feel your tooth wiggle. This is a sign that periodontitis is already causing severe damage.

6. Your teeth feel like they’re misaligned or your dentures no longer fit.

Periodontitis can leave gums permanently changed in shape, making it seem like your teeth don’t feel right when you bite down. If you wear dentures or a mouth guard, it might also seem like they don’t fit right anymore.

What to do if you’re experiencing these gum disease symptoms.

If you’re experiencing these gum disease symptoms or anything else unusual with your gums, it’s crucial that you see your dentist as soon as you can.

Remember, even though gingivitis doesn’t tend to cause permanent damage, without treatment it can lead to periodontitis. The faster you get your gum inflammation treated and under control, the less likely that permanent damage will occur. Not to mention your oral health will drastically improve!

Periodontal therapy is used to treat gingivitis as well as periodontitis.

Generally speaking, gum disease responds very well to treatment, even in cases of periodontitis. The treatment method used for gum disease is called periodontal therapy.

This involves specialized deep cleanings of not only the teeth, but also within the inflamed gum “pockets” around your teeth. Plaque build-up will be removed, as well as any damaged or infected tissue. These cleanings happen much more often than your general hygiene visits—sometimes as often as monthly or every three months.

Gingivitis and early periodontitis might be completely healed with regular periodontal therapy coupled with a strict at-home oral hygiene routine.

At-home oral care is paramount when recovering from gum disease and preventing it from occurring again. This includes brushing twice a day, flossing daily, using high-quality oral care products, and seeing your dentist at least every six months or more often as recommended.

If permanent damage, such as tooth loss or bone loss, has occurred from periodontitis, a combination of dental implants, restorative dentistry, and cosmetic dentistry may be needed to return your smile to full function and beauty.

For periodontal therapy or a gum health consultation, you can schedule your appointment by calling our downtown Chicago office or filling out this online booking form.