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How can I tell if I have gum disease?
A photo of a smile with healthy gums

Symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Bad breath that won’t go away
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Tender or bleeding gums
  • Painful chewing
  • Loose teeth
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Receeding gums or apparent lengthening of teeth

Any of these symptoms may be a sign of a serious problem that should be checked by a dentist. At your dental visit, the dentist or hygienist should:

  • Ask about your medical history to identify underlying conditions or risk factors (such as smoking) that may contribute to gum disease.
  • Examine your gums and note any signs of inflammation.
  • Use a tiny ruler called a “probe” to check for and measure any pockets. In a healthy mouth, the depth of these pockets is usually between 1 and 3 millimeters. This test for pocket depth is usually painless.
What are factors that may contribute to risk of gum disease?
  • Smoking.  Need another reason to quit smoking? Smoking is one of the most significant risk factors associated with the development of gum disease. Additionally, smoking can lower the chances for successful treatment.
  • Hormonal changes in girls/women. These changes can make gums more sensitive and make it easier for gingivitis to develop.
  • Diabetes. People with diabetes are at higher risk for developing infections, including gum disease.
  • Other illnesses and their treatments. Diseases such as AIDS and its treatments can also negatively affect the health of gums, as can treatments for cancer.
  • Medications. There are hundreds of prescription and over the counter medications that can reduce the flow of saliva, which has a protective effect on the mouth. Without enough saliva, the mouth is vulnerable to infections such as gum disease. And some medicines can cause abnormal overgrowth of the gum tissue; this can make it difficult to keep teeth and gums clean.
  • Genetic susceptibility. Some people are more prone to severe gum disease than others.
How is gum disease treated?

The main goal of treatment is to control the infection. The number and types of treatment will vary, depending on the extent of the gum disease. Any type of treatment requires that the patient keep up good daily care at home. The doctor may also suggest changing certain behaviours, such as quitting smoking, as a way to improve treatment outcome.

What is Deep Cleaning (Scaling and Root Planing)?

The dentist, periodontist, or dental hygienist removes the plaque through a deep-cleaning method called scaling and root planing. Scaling consists of scraping the tartar off of teeth both above and below the gum line. Root planing gets rid of rough spots on the tooth root where germs gather and helps remove bacteria that contribute to the disease. In some cases a laser may be used to remove plaque and tartar. This procedure can result in less bleeding, swelling, and discomfort compared to traditional deep cleaning methods.

What can I do to keep my gums healthy?
  • Brush your teeth twice a day (with a fluoride toothpaste).
  • Floss regularly to remove plaque from between teeth. Or use a device such as a special brush or wooden or plastic pick recommended by a dental professional.
  • Visit the dentist routinely for a check-up and professional cleaning.
  • Don’t smoke
Portions excerpted from under the Creative Commons license.
This Post Has 4 Comments

The information provided below does not constitute dental advice and is general in nature. It does not take into account your personal dental health and should not be acted on without consultation with a certified dental professional.

Bathurst Centre Dental Care accepts no liability for any loss or injury arising out of the use of this website or reliance on the content of this website.

  1. My gum hurts just around my wisdom tooth and I can barely open my mouth it is to sore. I don’t know what the problem is.

    1. Hi Demi, please see a dentist as soon as possible. It could be an abscess developing around your wisdom tooth that could have serious consequences if left untreated.

  2. my gums are red around three back teeth on bottom. x rays and exam show nothing. have been like this for 3 months. what can i do?

    1. Hi Richard, there are many factors that can cause redness of the gums. Some of the more common causes are gum disease, dental infection, fungal infection, and dry mouth. External factors are sometimes a cause; these can include switching to a new toothpaste or toothbrush, changing brushing technique, eating hard and abrasive foods, chemical burns from chewing tobacco, smoking, vaping or even cinnamon flavoured candy, biting the cheek, or dental appliances (e.g. denture, sleep apnea appliance, night guard) that could be rubbing the gum. If all of above have been ruled out by your dentist, you can ask for a referral to a specialist in oral medicine or an oral surgeon and they will help you determine if a biopsy of the area is needed.

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