The Warning Signs You May Have Gum Disease

Most of us know the importance of dental hygiene when it comes to keeping our teeth free of cavities. Good gum care, however, should be considered equally important.

Gum disease is one of the most common reasons for dental visits. So what exactly is gum disease, is it preventable, and how is it treated?

Read on to learn about the signs of gum disease and to find out if you’re at risk.

What is Gum Disease?

Gum disease is also known as gingivitis or periodontal disease. Gingivitis is gum inflammation that causes gum tissue swelling, excessive bleeding, white or yellow gum lesions, bad breath, tenderness, abscesses, growing spaces between teeth, and bright red, unhealthy gum color.

This inflammation is caused by bacterial infection. Over time, inadequate gum care and poor oral hygiene results in bacterial populations that overwhelm the body’s immune system.


Chronic inflammation in the gums can progress to periodontitis without proper treatment and gum care. Periodontitis is the result of inflammation and infection that isn’t addressed.

As the immune system tries to fight bacteria, the supporting structures that hold in your teeth, like bone, ligaments, and the gums, can break down.

When these supporting structures lose integrity, a number of serious issues may arise. These include:

  • The development of pockets around the teeth that are difficult to clean
  • A receding gum line that may expose the tooth root
  • Severe tooth sensitivity
  • Cavities developing in the exposed, vulnerable tooth roots

The effects of gum disease that has progressed to periodontitis are more serious than you may realize. When the teeth lack strong, healthy supporting structures, they may become loose or require extraction.

Signs of Gum Disease

Gum disease is most often caused by poor hygiene and failure to remove plaque. It may indicate other health problems in the body, however.

If you’re concerned that you may have gum disease, you’ll want to know the signs of this condition.

Gum Bleeding

Healthy gums shouldn’t bleed with normal brushing and flossing activities. If you’re experiencing abnormal or excessive bleeding during your hygiene routine, you could have gingivitis.

Gum bleeding is common in people who don’t regularly floss. This is because bacteria builds up below the gum line, causing inflammation. This inflammation leads to bleeding when you brush your teeth.

In addition to bleeding, the gums may be sore, swollen, and red.

More Serious Risks Associated with Gum Bleeding

Discomfort and swelling aren’t the only problems that come with bleeding gums. If blood is able exit your gum tissue, this means that there are tiny breaks in the tissue where other bacteria can easily enter your bloodstream.

The most dangerous risk involved with bacterial entrance is the development of blood clots that can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Because these bacteria bond to platelets in the blood, they can form these problematic clots.

Bleeding due to gum disease may happen during brushing and flossing at first, but can then happen while eating as the inflammation becomes worse. As the disease progresses, you may even have spontaneous gum bleeding.

Gum Recession and Pockets

Gum recession is a sign of gum disease progression and can lead to many problems. When chronic inflammation begins to cause gum tissue breakdown, the gums will recede and expose more of the tooth’s root.

This loss of gum tissue may make teeth look longer, as there is more tooth surface exposed. Because more of the root is eventually exposed, your teeth will likely become more sensitive.


The space between the teeth and gums is known as the gum pocket. This space ends at the point where gum tissue is attached to the teeth.

As gum disease progresses, gum tissue breaks down. This causes the gum pocket to become deeper, as the attachment point of the gums gets farther below the gum line.

Why is Pocketing an Issue?

Pocketing is extremely problematic when it comes to thorough hygiene and good gum care. The deep pockets allow for bacteria build up, while at the same time they prevent its removal by brushing and flossing.

Gum tissue becomes further inflamed and broken down as bacterial buildup is left inside the pocket. In time, if left unaddressed, the pocket can become so deep that the tooth is no longer held firmly in place by gum tissue.

Sensitive Teeth

You may not have noticed bleeding, receding, or pocketing, even if those signs were present. You may not be able to ignore increasing tooth sensitivity, however.

Healthy gum tissue protects the tooth root. When this root is exposed, you may notice that your teeth become more sensitive to cold, heat, and other stimuli.

Tooth roots are not protected by enamel. In addition to being uncomfortable, root exposure puts you at a much higher risk of developing cavities. If you’ve noticed increased tooth sensitivity, it’s time to visit the dentist.

Chronic Bad Breath

Persistent bad breath is also a telling sign that there is an infection in your gums. If you’ve brushed, flossed, used mouthwash and still have a foul odor coming from your mouth, gum disease may be the culprit.

Bad breath may even be caused by pus or fluid that can accumulate within gum pockets because of infection.

Treatment and Prevention

Prevention is key when fighting gum disease. Your oral hygiene and daily habits make all the difference. Always make sure you:

  • Brush your teeth and tongue after every meal
  • Floss at least once a day to remove food and plaque that collects between teeth
  • Use mouthwash to clean and flush areas brushing and flossing misses
  • Reduce your intake of sugary and starchy foods
  • Stop smoking
  • See your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings

Following these guidelines can prevent gingivitis from developing and can improve existing gingivitis that is in the earlier stages of the disease.

If your gum disease has progressed to the point of tissue damage, you may be a candidate for a number of non-surgical or surgical procedures that repair the gum tissue. Antibiotics may also be administered to reduce bacteria in the mouth.

Gum Care Starts With You

Healthy gums are the result of healthy habits. Invest in the health of your gums by practicing proper oral hygiene, making healthy lifestyle choices, and keeping up with regular dental appointments.

Let us help you maintain a great smile and healthy gums. Book your appointment with Chats Dental today.

Dr. Catherine Yang, BDS (USyd)