Are you getting long in the tooth? This may be an effect of aging, as your gums recede slightly as you get older, but it could be one of the early warning signs of periodontal disease. Unfortunately, periodontal or gum disease does more than just ruin your smile. Some studies suggest that people with gum disease may be at increased risk of heart disease and blood sugar issues, although the evidence isn’t conclusive. One thing that is certain is the sooner you pay attention to possible gum disease symptoms and work with your dentist to deal with them, the better your chances of maintaining good dental health and an attractive smile as you age.
If you have any of the most common risk factors for gum disease, you should be especially careful to check for early symptoms. The major risk factors are:
Age: The older you are, the more likely you are to have gum disease. The first symptoms commonly appear in your thirties or forties.
Gender: Men are at higher risk than women.
Smoking: As well as staining your teeth an ugly yellow, smoking can cause gum disease.
Diabetes and other chronic illnesses: Cancer, AIDS, diabetes and certain other chronic conditions increase gum disease risk.
Poor Dental Hygiene: Brushing and flossing regularly reduces your chances of gum disease.
Major Early Warning Signs
Several different signs indicate the early stages of periodontal disease. If you experience one or more of the following, you should visit your dentist for a checkup to reduce the chances of a mild case of gingivitis turning into periodontitis, a more severe form of gum disease that can destroy your teeth.
Gum Condition: If your gums feel sore, or look redder than normal, or certain areas of your gums feel slightly swollen, especially if these conditions continue for several days or go away and then recur, you may early signs of periodontal disease.
Bleeding: You might have gum disease if you notice blood when you brush or floss.
Loose Teeth: If you are an adult and not a professional boxer, and your teeth are loose, that may signal underlying gum issues.
Painful or Sensitive Teeth: If you can’t enjoy ice cream or steak because your teeth hurt when you chew or are sensitive to temperature, don’t deprive yourself of your favorite foods. Have you dentist check your gums.
Persistent Bad Breath: Certain foods, such as garlic or raw onions, make your breath smell bad temporarily. If people regularly offer you breath mints and no one seems to want to sit near you at meetings because your breath is so bad, a visit to the dentist to check for and treat gum disease might result in a significant improvement to your social and romantic life.
The good news is that if you pay attention to the early signs of periodontal disease, you can treat it with regular brushing, flossing, and professional tooth cleaning. More advanced cases can require medication or even surgery. On a positive note, the dental hygiene practices that best prevent gum disease leave you with healthier teeth, better-smelling breath, and a brighter smile.
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research: Periodontal (Gum) Disease http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/oralhealth/topics/gumdiseases/periodontalgumdisease.htm
BMC Public Health (PubMed): Smoking and tooth discolouration
Canadian Dental Association: Gum Disease FAQs