Gingivitis Warning Signs
Gingivitis symptoms, caused by inflammation or irritation of the gums, can develop fairly rapidly. Check the health of your gums each day when you brush and floss your teeth. Here are the five most common warning signs that you may be developing gingivitis:
Change in Gum Color
Normal, healthy gingiva (gum tissue) is usually a rich, even pink color. When inflammation occurs, you may notice patches of gum tissue that are bright red. This redness may start in just one area of the mouth. For example, you might notice it below or between your two bottom front teeth if you pull down on your lower lip. Generally, you will find that the redness starts where plaque or tartar has accumulated. If the tartar is hidden below the gum line, you might not see it unless you gently push the gum back with a dental pick.
Change in Gum Texture and Shape
Your gums should be firm to the touch with a slightly textured surface. Healthy gum tissue is moist so your lips should slide easily over them (dry mouth is one problem that can lead to gum inflammation). Your gums are designed to form a seal against your teeth to keep out bacteria and food debris. The gum tissue should be thinner at the edges where it comes into contact with your teeth.
When gingivitis symptoms develop, you may notice that the edges of your gums look slightly rolled away from the surface of your teeth. They will often be puffy and somewhat soft to the touch. They may also look shiny because they are swollen. Your gums may be sensitive (although gingivitis often causes little or no pain in its early stages).
Bleeding is a very common symptom of gingivitis. It is a result of your body’s natural immune response which increases blood flow to infected tissues. You may notice blood in your saliva when you spit in the sink after you brush and floss your teeth. It is possible to make even healthy gums bleed by flossing or using a dental pick too vigorously. However, the most likely cause of bleeding gums is inflammation from not brushing and flossing frequently and properly. You should not stop brushing and flossing your teeth when you see blood. This will only make the plaque buildup worse. You should use a toothbrush with soft bristles to gently and thoroughly clean the plaque from your teeth. See a dentist if your gums are not better within a couple of weeks.
This gingivitis symptom may be difficult to notice unless you are paying attention to what your teeth normally look like. Your teeth will gradually begin to look longer as the gums pull back or deteriorate. You might see this happening over just one or two teeth at first. The scalloped edges of your gums should be evenly shaped and fairly symmetrical when you compare the right and left sides of your mouth. If you notice recession along any part of your gum line, you should see a dentist right away. It may be possible to reverse this process if you catch it early enough. If you wait too long, the loss of gum tissue may be permanent.
It is normal to have some bacteria living in your mouth – but you don’t want these germs in constant contact with your gums, tongue and teeth. Bacteria colonies play a key role in the development of plaque, which irritates your gums. The same bacteria that contribute to gingivitis inflammation also tend to make your breath smell bad. So, you might notice halitosis as one of the earliest signs that your gums are in trouble. Proper oral care (including the use of an antimicrobial mouthwash) is often recommended to resolve both problems.