We all want a healthy, beautiful smile. But, did you know that a healthy, beautiful smile starts with healthy gums? It makes sense if you think about it. A house built on a shaky foundation is unlikely to stand very long. There’s nothing to support it. So too, a smile rooted in unhealthy gums can’t stay healthy for long. The teeth cannot maintain good health while anchored in disease. Luckily, gum disease—called periodontitis—develops over time and responds well to treatment in its early stages. With vigilance and regular care, you can recognize the symptoms of periodontitis and treat it before it becomes a major problem that threatens your entire oral health.
Early Periodontitis Symptoms
Red, Puffy Gums
Healthy gum tissue is pink in color and the teeth look like they fit into it smoothly. If you start to see red gums, you should view them as a clear, red warning sign. Gums that look puffy or like they’re pulling away from the tooth surface are also a huge sign that all is not well in your mouth.
Sensitive or Bleeding Gums
When you brush your teeth, you should not see any signs of bleeding. If you are seeing blood when you brush or pink tinged spit, you should check your brushing and flossing technique to make sure you’re not being too rough on your gums. If you’re brushing well, it’s probably a periodontitis warning sign.
Receding Gums or New Spaces Between Teeth
If your teeth are looking longer and your gums are disappearing, you probably have a problem that should get some of your attention. Gums root your tooth into your mouth; as such, they are important for preserving tooth health. There are some situations—for example when undergoing orthodontic treatment—in which you might expect to see some gum recession. Those situations, however, are very uncommon. In general, receding gums are a problem that merits prompt attention.
Periodontitis is an infection. Like most infections (caused by bacteria), it does not smell pleasant. If you notice chronic bad breath even though you brush regularly and have good oral hygiene, you may be smelling an infection in your mouth.
If periodontitis has progressed, you may notice severe symptoms like loose teeth and pus coming from the gums. If you have those symptoms, see your dentist right away. Home treatment may not be appropriate if disease has progressed this far.
Because periodontitis is a bacterial infection, treating it involves treating the bacteria. Plaque is home to an overgrown bacterial biofilm. Having plaque accumulation at the gum line aggravates the gum tissue, so the first treatment steps involve removing and preventing plaque accumulation.
Clean It Up
Brush your teeth at least twice daily with a soft bristled toothbrush, taking care to brush gently along the gum line. Floss daily and take care to clean between the teeth. Be sure to keep up your cleaning schedule with your dentist as well; it is doubly important to see your dentist while fighting a gum infection.
An antibacterial rinse can help reduce the number of bacteria and can relieve gum irritation and inflammation. Avoid rinses that contain alcohol because the drying action of alcohol can worsen irritation and increase conditions that let bacteria grow. Warm saltwater rinses can also help soothe irritated tissue and fight bacteria.
When to Call the Pros for Periodontitis
If the above methods aren’t keeping your mild periodontitis in check, your dentist may recommend oral antibiotics or a deep cleaning called a scaling. Treating early and staying vigilant about oral care can help spare you more extensive and expensive dental procedures.