Whenever you see a commercial for toothpaste, mouthwash, or any other type of oral health product, they usually mention how it can help you fight this threat known as gum disease. But what exactly is gum disease, and more importantly, what are the symptoms you should be on the lookout for? The answer to the first question is simple—it’s a bacterial infection of the tissues that support your teeth. The early and most common form is known as gingivitis, and if any of these three symptoms sound familiar, then you might already have it.
Gingivitis typically develops as a result of bacteria-filled plaque deposits being left in the mouth for too long, allowing the microbes to start attacking the gums. Just like other parts of the body, when your gums experience trauma (i.e., damage), one of the first things they will do is turn red with irritation. Because of the lack of light in the mouth, they may appear purple as well. Normal, healthy gums are a bright pink color, and any variation is usually a sign of a problem.
Swollen, Tender Gums
Are your gums feeling more sensitive lately? Do they appear puffy? Just like discoloration, this inflammation can be a sign that an infection like gingivitis has taken hold. If you begin to experience new pain or discomfort in your mouth, it might not be your teeth that are the problem, but rather your gums.
Gums that Bleed Easily
The most telltale sign of gingivitis are gums that bleed very easily, especially in response to flossing. When the gums become inflamed, this means there is more blood in the tissue, which is a normal reaction the body has when fighting an infection. However, this also makes them more likely to bleed when you floss. If you regularly see pink in the sink after cleaning your teeth, this might be the reason why.
What Can You Do?
Thankfully, treating gingivitis is usually straightforward, and there is a lot you can do at home. First, be sure to follow a quality oral hygiene routine that consists of brushing for two minutes twice a day and flossing in the evening. If you’re noticing signs of gingivitis, it may be wise to start flossing/rinsing after lunch in the middle of the day as well.
If these symptoms persist despite following the steps above, however, then it’s time to reach out to a professional. A periodontist is a type of dentist that specializes in treating the gums, so they can help you identify the source of the problem and also offer you solutions only they can, such as providing you with prescription-strength mouthwash or toothpaste.
The key thing is to NOT ignore these symptoms and try to be proactive. By getting ahead of an infection, either at home or with help, you can prevent it from becoming worse and go a long way in protecting your oral and overall health for years to come.
About the Author
Dr. Zachary Carnow practiced general dentistry for four years alongside his father before he eventually decided to pursue further training and went to the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine to study periodontics. Today, he is a board-certified periodontist and considered an expert when it comes to gum health. In addition to offering periodontal therapy for gum disease, he can also perform gum grafts to reverse the damage caused by gum recession. If you suspect that you might have gingivitis and want to make sure it goes away, you can schedule a consultation with Dr. Carnow through his website or by calling (214) 619-4990.