Early Warning Signs of Periodontal Disease
Knowing early signs of periodontal disease can save your teeth and gums from serious damage.
Periodontal disease refers to gum problems. The milder form is called gingivitis, which refers to gum inflammation. If this becomes more severe, patients develop periodontitis.
While a dentist is trained to manage most oral health conditions, you may be referred to a periodontist if you have clear signs of gum disease. A periodontist has greater expertise on gum conditions and is the most suitable healthcare professional to manage gingivitis and periodontitis.
Many Sydney periodontics can provide an accurate diagnosis and effective management of gum disease.
But for now, let’s take a look at what gingivitis and periodontitis are and how you can identify them early on.
The early signs of gingivitis
Gingivitis begins with inadequate cleaning of the mouth. When people forget to brush, floss, and use mouthwash regularly, a layer of bacteria and food accumulates over their teeth. This is called plaque.
Over time, plaque hardens into what’s called tartar, which is difficult to clean. Because people are unable to get rid of tartar, bacteria continue to proliferate inside the mouth. These bacteria produce acid, which damages enamel, the hard, white layer of teeth that shows when you smile.
Acid and bacteria lead to gum inflammation (or gingivitis). The earliest signs of gingivitis include gums that bleed while brushing or red, swollen, and inflamed gums.
The good news is that gingivitis is reversible. If you want to catch periodontal disease early on, you must catch it at this stage.
Gingivitis can be reversed by ensuring adequate cleaning of the mouth. Basic dental hygiene practices include:
- Brushing two times a day
- Regular mouthwash use
- Consistent and regular dental check ups
You can try improving your oral hygiene and see if symptoms of gingivitis disappear. If they don’t, you must seek medical attention because long-term, untreated gingivitis will turn into periodontitis.
And periodontitis is a word you don’t want to hear from your dentist.
What is periodontitis?
In contrast to gingivitis, periodontitis is not reversible. And this is the main difference between the two conditions.
If you neglect bleeding gums for too long, the gum line can start receding. This means that the layer of bone and gum tissue over the teeth starts shrinking, which creates small pockets in the area. These pockets can accumulate bacteria and other debris, leading to even more inflammation and damage.
Chemicals released by bacteria and the body’s immune response to them both lead to gum and bone resorption around the teeth. As more and more gum tissue is destroyed, teeth begin to loosen in their sockets and eventually fall out.
Signs that can help you identify the condition early on include:
- Shrinking gum tissue
- Persistent bad breath, which reflects bacterial presence inside the mouth
- A change in how your teeth fit together when you close your jaw
- Loosening of teeth
Factors that increase your risk of gum disease
Although plaque is the primary driver of periodontal disease, various health conditions can increase your risk of disease development.
It’s important to be aware of these conditions because if you have them, you need to watch out for early signs of gum disease more closely compared to an average person.
These factors include:
- Family history — if someone among your close relatives has gingivitis, your risk is increased.
- Cigarette smoking
- Anticholinergic drugs, which reduce saliva production. Saliva normally protects your teeth and gums by washing away (and killing) harmful bacteria.
- A compromised immune system due to an illness like HIV. This predisposes you to oral infections, which can lead to gum disease.
- Pregnancy, menstruation, puberty, and menopause. All of these are associated with massive hormonal fluctuations, which may lead to gingivitis.
The two main periodontal diseases are gingivitis, which is mild, and periodontitis, which is advanced.
Early signs of gingivitis include painful, red, and swollen gums or gums that bleed during brushing. You want to catch periodontal disease at this stage and visit a periodontist because it’s still reversible at this point.
If gingivitis progresses to periodontitis, you’ll notice loosening of your teeth and a receding gum line. At this point, the disease is irreversible and immediate medical attention is required.
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