Are your gums swollen and bleeding? Struggling with bad breath and toothaches? In this case, you might need to see a dentist.

These symptoms may indicate gum disease, which affects the teeth and the surrounding tissues. If left untreated, it can lead to chronic illnesses.

Research indicates a strong link between gum disease and cardiovascular problems. This condition may also increase your risk of diabetes and lung infections. Many patients experience recurring infections and lose their teeth.

Gingivitis, which occurs in the early stages of gum disease, can be successfully treated. The key is to diagnose it before it’s too late.

What Is Gum Disease?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of Americans have gum disease. About 22.9 percent of the Australian population is struggling with periodontitis.

This disorder occurs when the bacteria in your mouth affect the teeth and gums. The early stages of gum disease cause inflammation, plaque buildup, and bleeding.

As the infection spreads, your teeth may loosen and fall out. This stage is known as periodontitis and occurs in approximately 20 percent of adults.

Even though gum disease is more common in seniors, it can affect people of all ages. Possible causes include cigarette smoking, poor oral hygiene, and plaque buildup.

Certain medications, such as steroids, may increase your risk of gum disease.

This condition can also occur during times of illness when your immune system is weaker. Other possible risk factors are diabetes, immune disorders, and nutrient deficiencies.

Gingivitis vs. Periodontitis: What’s the Difference?

Gum disease is an umbrella term for two conditions: gingivitis and periodontitis. The first one occurs in the early stages of gum disease and can be easily treated.

Regular dental cleanings and daily brushing may help prevent gingivitis. If you already have this disease, the dentist will remove plaque buildup and tartar. This helps prevent infections and keeps bacteria from spreading throughout your body.

Without treatment, gingivitis can develop into periodontitis. This condition causes inflammation of the gums, loose teeth, and systemic conditions.

In advanced stages, periodontitis can damage the teeth and gums. It also weakens your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to diseases. The gum tissue is gradually destroyed and tooth loss occurs.

For this reason, it’s crucial to recognize the early stages of gum disease. Once you identify the signs, you can take the steps needed to prevent complications.

Early Stages of Gum Disease: Warning Signs to Look Out For

Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease. At this point, the bone and connective tissues holding the teeth are not affected. However, you may still experience a number of symptoms, such as:

  • Halitosis (bad breath)
  • Bleeding or swollen gums
  • Bright red gums
  • Abscesses
  • Inflammation around the teeth
  • Spaces opening up between your teeth
  • White spots on the gums
  • A bad taste in the mouth
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Painful chewing

Symptoms may vary based on the severity of the disease. Some people report toothaches when drinking cold or hot beverages. Others experience a sharp pain when chewing foods.

These problems occur when oral bacteria accumulate in the mouth. Your dentist can remove the plaque before it turns into tartar and causes gum disease. The sooner you receive treatment, the better.

Most patients experience gum bleeding in the early stages of gum disease. This symptom may indicate other conditions too.

For instance, your gums may bleed whenever you’re switching to a new toothbrush. Blood thinning medications are another common cause. Some women experience this symptom during pregnancy.

Your dentist is the only one who can determine the real cause of bleeding gums. After checking your teeth, he will make a diagnosis and prescribe the right treatment.

How Is Gingivitis Treated?

The early stages of gum disease are the easiest to treat. If bleeding is the only symptom, you may be able to treat gingivitis at home. Good oral care is the key.

First of all, brush your teeth at least twice a day. Do it after every meal. This helps remove harmful bacteria and prevents plaque.

Floss daily, especially before going to bed and after eating. Flossing eliminates food particles that feed the bacteria in your mouth.

Use an antibacterial toothpaste and mouthwash to kill pathogens. Opt for a toothbrush with soft or extra-soft bristles to reduce bleeding. Replace it once every two months or so.

If you can not brush your teeth right away, use chewing gum.

According to a recent study, this food may help prevent gum disease. Maltitol and xylitol, the sweeteners in chewing gum, inhibit gingivitis development.

Also, it’s important to watch your diet. Sugar causes damage to your teeth and gums. If you suffer from gingivitis, it may worsen your symptoms. It’s not unusual to experience sore gums or toothaches after eating sugary foods.

If your symptoms persist, see a dentist. Depending on the stage of gingivitis, he may recommend a professional dental cleaning or dental restoration.

Diet and Gum Disease

One of the best ways to prevent and treat gum disease is to eat a balanced diet. Studies indicate that certain nutrients, such as vitamin D and omega-3s, may help reduce inflammation.

Your diet should be low in carbs and rich in whole, natural foods. Apples and raw vegetables help clean your teeth. Salmon, tuna, and mackerel contain essential fats with anti-inflammatory properties.

Bone broth, coconut, avocado, and beef liver boast large doses of fat-soluble vitamins. These nutrients fight inflammation and support oral health.

At the same time, it’s recommended to limit sugar, refined oils, soda, and fruit juice.

Avoid grains until your symptoms go away. Phytic acid, a compound found in most grains, triggers inflammation, which is a contributing factor to gum disease.

You may also try natural remedies for gingivitis, such as clove essential oil, green tea, and vitamin C supplements. Coenzyme Q10 speeds up healing and promotes new tissue growth. Beta-carotene, EPA, and DHA, and other supplements reduce swelling of the gums.

Wrapping Up

Gingivitis is one of the most common yet overlooked oral diseases. It’s your responsibility to recognize its symptoms and treat it before it’s too late.

Book an appointment at the dentist today! Early treatment can restore your smile and improve your health!

Dr Catherine Yang, BDS (USyd)