Warning Signs You May Need to See a Periodontist
When do you know you need to visit a periodontist? Gum disease is a condition that can easily creep up on you before you realize there’s a problem. It’s not like a tooth abscess which causes pain you can’t ignore. Instead, the warning signs of periodontal disease are more subtle. Most people experience little or no pain until the late stages of periodontitis. This means you need to be especially vigilant in monitoring gum health. Here are some common gum disease symptoms that mean you may need a consultation with a periodontist:
Your Dental Checkup Shows Problems
Your general or family dentist will perform a thorough oral exam to check for signs of gingivitis or periodontitis. This includes looking for areas of infection or inflammation along your gum line. An evaluation includes probing gently below your gum line to check for tartar buildup and pockets of infected matter. The dental probe used to check the health of your gums should be able to penetrate no further than 3 millimeters between the gum and the tooth root’s surface. If it goes deeper, this means the gums are pulling away from the teeth – a sign of inflammation and the buildup of bacteria and plaque.
The dentist will also wiggle your teeth to make sure none are loose. Finally, your dentist will check your x-rays for signs that bone deterioration is occurring around your teeth. This type of damage occurs with more advanced periodontal disease. So, your dentist is most likely to find problem with your jawbone on an x-ray if you have been skipping your regular dental appointments. If your dentist finds signs of periodontal disease that can’t be addressed with a standard cleaning and better at-home oral hygiene, you may receive a referral to see a periodontist.
Self-Diagnosis of Gum Disease
There are many signs of periodontal disease that you can spot yourself:
Gum Redness, Swelling and Bleeding. Your gums should be an even pink tone that doesn’t vary much in color across your gum line. If you see areas that are bright red or purplish in color, this is an indication of inflammation. Check all your teeth including those in the back of your mouth (a small dental mirror can help). You may find areas of redness around your molars where it is more difficult to brush effectively. Plaque or tarter along your gum line is causing this inflammatory reaction by irritating the sensitive tissues of the gum. The tartar can actually act like a splinter, constantly rubbing on your gums.
The gums may puff out away from the surface of your teeth due to inflammation. The surface of your gums may take on a very smooth, shiny appearance as the tissue swells up. You may find that your gums bleed easily when you brush and floss your teeth.
Finally, you may notice that your breath tends to smell bad – regardless of what you eat or drink. Sometimes, these are simply symptoms of early gingivitis (inflammation that occurs before serious bacterial infection sets in). In that case, they should go away within a couple of weeks once you begin brushing and flossing correctly. If these symptoms of gum disease persist, you may need to see a periodontist to check for more advanced gum problems.
Gum Recession. As periodontitis progresses, you are likely to see changes in the contours of your gum line. One or more teeth may look longer than usual. This is due to the gums pulling away from the teeth and gradually deteriorating. The waste products created by bacteria (and by the white blood cells your body sends to fight the bacteria) can erode your gum tissue severely. Your gums may or may not hurt or be sensitive to the touch.
Warning Signs of Advanced Gum Disease. As gum disease worsens, there are more serious symptoms of gum disease that may develop. These include:
- Receding gums – your gum line will look uneven, your teeth will look longer and the exposed tooth root may be very sensitive to heat and cold.
- Loose teeth
- Bite problems
These issues can lead to permanent damage up to and including tooth loss. You should seek treatment from a periodontist right away if you have signs of advanced periodontitis.