According to the World Health Organization, gum disease is one of the most significant global oral health burdens. Severe gum disease or periodontal disease affects some 15 to 20% of middle-aged adults (ages 35 to 44). Dr. Kami Hoss explains that there’s more to gum disease than the bleeding of gums when one brushes his/her teeth. Left unaddressed, gum disease can lead to tooth loss; an outcome that affects some 30% of people aged 65-74. These seniors have no natural teeth left!

Gum Disease Symptoms

To prevent gum disease, one should learn about its symptoms. The first telltale sign of periodontal disease is when you have red and swollen gums.

“When you brush your teeth later, check your gum line,” Dr. Kami Hoss says. “Red, swollen gums mean your gums are inflamed. As such, you’ll need to consult your dentist for treatment.”

Red, swollen gums will also feel tender. They may even be painful. As mentioned, bleeding gums are one of the most evident symptoms of gum disease. The bleeding usually occurs when you floss or brush your teeth.

Another symptom to watch out for is bad breath. That foul smell is a result of bacteria in the mouth that feeds on plaque—that sticky, colorless film found on the crevices of your teeth.

“When you check your gum line, see if your gums appear smaller as well,” Dr. Kami Hoss adds. “A receding gum line is what leads to tooth loss.”

Before tooth loss occurs, however, you may notice that your teeth feel “loose” or are already shifting. The bottom line, there is a progression to periodontal disease that ultimately results in tooth loss.

Gum Disease Treatment

Now that you know what to look out for, you may be wondering what you can do to treat or prevent gum disease. As mentioned, periodontal disease is preventable. This means you can treat your gums and take steps to prevent the disease from developing again.

First, schedule an appointment with your dentist for deep cleaning.

“Many patients think regular and deep cleaning are the same,” Dr. Kami Hoss says. “However, they are two different treatments. Regular cleaning is done above the gum line, while deep cleaning goes under the gum line.”

Dr. Kami Hoss adds that the dentist uses special tools to clean the gum line. S/he may do scaling or a root planing procedure. This is so the teeth can reattach to the gum line.

In some cases, the dentist may also prescribe medications as part of the treatment. These can include antibiotic microspheres, which are inserted in between the pockets of the gums. If there’s an infection, an antibiotic gel may be applied. For more serious cases of infection, oral antibiotics may be given.

“Some patients require gum graft surgery,” Dr. Kami Hoss says. “These are for cases when deep cleaning is ineffective.”

Dr. Kami Hoss explains that in gum graft surgery, tissue is taken from other parts of your mouth and used to cover where the tooth’s roots are exposed. This is done to prevent further bone loss or tooth decay.