Do You Have Bad Gums? How Do You Know? And What Do You Do About It?

Be honest: When you brush or floss your teeth, do you ever draw blood? If you do, do you just ignore it, maybe thinking you might have been cleaning too hard?

You’re certainly not alone – not with the bleeding and not with the rationalizing. But chances are, you’re wrong about the cause.

Bleeding gums are one of the most telltale signs of periodontal (gum) disease. Nearly half of all American adults have it to some degree. It’s even more common in older adults. Just over 70% of all seniors have periodontal disease.

Healthy Teeth Need Healthy Gums to Support Them

Despite its prevalence, many people don’t seem to take gum disease all that seriously. But over time, gingivitis – early stage gum disease, which is entirely reversible – gradually worsens into periodontitis, and periodontitis is where things can get really serious really fast.

The simple fact is that healthy teeth need healthy gums and bone to support them. Periodontitis destroys those tissues. Gum tissues separate from the teeth and periodontal pockets around the teeth deepen, becoming great hideouts for harmful oral bacteria. Alveolar bone is gradually lost.

With less support, teeth will eventually begin to loosen in their sockets. At this point, a dentist may advise removing some of the most vulnerable teeth in hopes of saving the others.

Fashion changes, it’s true; but we can safely say that the toothless look is never in style.

And that’s not even the worst consequence of out-of-control gum disease. Science has consistently linked periodontal disease with a host of other health problems marked by chronic inflammation. These include heart disease, diabetes, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, cognitive decline, mental health issues, chronic kidney disease, and even some forms of cancer.

Signs of Advanced Gum Disease to Watch For

As gum disease develops and progresses, you may start to recognize some of the warning signs of deepening infection:

  • Bleeding, Tender, Puffy, Gums: We mentioned the blood, but even before that, you may notice that your gums look a bit puffy and more red than pink. They may feel tender. These are signs that your immune system is hard at work, battling infection – and, usually, the first noticeable sign that your gums need some TLC.

  • Gum Recession: One of the most visible signs of periodontitis is gum recession, where the loss of exposes more of the tooth roots, making teeth look longer than normal.

  • Loose Teeth: As mentioned, when the supporting bone is destroyed by periodontitis, teeth can start to shift position or feel loose when biting down. Severely loose teeth may be on the verge of being lost entirely.

  • Persistent Bad Breath: The deep pockets around the teeth provide spaces for bacteria to accumulate and produce foul odors. No amount of brushing, flossing, or mouthwash may eliminate this type of persistent bad breath.

  • Pus Between Teeth: Look for pus oozing from between teeth or along the gumline when applying pressure. This is a sign of an active periodontal infection requiring treatment.

  • Painful Chewing: As periodontitis impacts the bones and tissues supporting the teeth, normal chewing may start to cause discomfort or sharp pains.

If you notice any of these signs, it’s crucial to schedule an exam with us (or your local dentist if you live outside of the Tri-State area) as soon as possible. Only a professional deep cleaning can remove the calcified plaque deposits that drive the progression of periodontitis – or more intensive therapies if the damage is especially extensive.

As always, the particular course of treatment depends on the particulars of each individual case.

Things You Can Do Right Now to Tackle Gum Disease

Between that call or message to us and the time of your appointment, there’s plenty you can do right now to help your gums, all of which are also effective for keeping gum disease at bay in the first place.

Number one? Improve your diet. For most folks, that means eating a lot less sugar and other refined carbs and starches, avoiding ultra-processed foods, and eating a lot more nutrient dense produce, meats, fish, legumes, whole grains, and healthy fats. Research suggests that even if you don’t change a thing about your oral hygiene, shifting to a low-carb diet, ideally, rich in omega-3s, vitamins C and D, and fiber, can considerably reduce gum disease symptoms.

Second is to ramp up your hygiene. Just brushing isn’t enough. You also need to floss and floss effectively. If that’s too much, other interdental cleaning tools will do, such as interdental brushes or an oral irrigator. Oil pulling with coconut oil can deliver big benefits, as can applying ozonated oil to your gums.

Third is to address any risk factors you may have, such as lack of sleep, lack of exercise, and smoking, vaping, or chewing tobacco. All of these have been shown in the literature to be associated with a higher risk of gum disease. It can also be extremely helpful to find strategies to help you reduce chronic stress, as stress, like sugar, fuels chronic inflammation.

Caring for your gums today can preserve much more than your smile. It can also contribute to your overall well-being and quality of life in the long run. So what are you waiting for?