For many people, dental problems can be a little bit scary. We use our teeth every day! When the stakes are that high, it is normal to worry from time to time, especially when you find yourself facing unexpected discomfort or other troubling symptoms. Fortunately, the remedy to such concerns is a little bit more information. This holds especially true for gum disease, which affects nearly half of the nation’s adult population, yet tends to take a backseat in our dialogue about dental health.

Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is a chronic condition that manifests in several ways. In the most extreme cases, it can infect teeth, causing them to become loose, at which point they may even need to be extracted. As such, brushing and flossing are important not just to maintain your pearly whites, but also to keep your gums healthy. If you are worried that your dental healthcare regimen has not been sufficient to stave off gum disease, you should watch for any of these following symptoms. They may well mean it is time to schedule your next appointment with your dentist:

Tooth sensitivity

Do your teeth seem to hurt more for no good reason, especially when you consume food or drinks? Perhaps the heat of your morning coffee is now too hot or a glass of refreshing ice water is now too cold, causing your teeth discomfort. This is a common sign of gum disease. Chronically inflamed gum tissue exposes the roots of your teeth, which may be what is suddenly reacting so extremely to hot or cold temperatures.

Bloody Gums

Your gums should be healthy enough to comfortably withstand a rigorous brushing and flossing routine. If you find that when you agitate your gums with either a toothbrush or floss, they easily begin to bleed or you otherwise experience discomfort, there could be a developing health problem at play. Bacteria can build up below the gums, which is what causes the bleeding. The issue may potentially spread and cause swollen, sore, or especially red gums. Your teeth might become more sensitive as well, especially if your gums start to recede from the infected areas.

This presents a complicated challenge for patients. If you stop flossing, the plaque that causes gingivitis may proceed to spread, obliterating the fibers that connect your gum tissue and teeth. However, the regular bleeding increases the possibility that harmful bacteria from the mouth is able to enter your bloodstream, potentially bonding to platelets and causing clots. That is why there are strong correlations between gum disease and serious medical events like heart attacks and strokes. When you find your gums are prone to bleeding, it is certainly time to schedule your next dental checkup as soon as possible.

Receding Gums

If you are invested in taking great care of yourself, it is important to make some time every so often to take inventory of how different parts of your body. Keeping fit and healthy is an active, not passive, process. One important thing to observe when you are inspecting your dental health is the length of your teeth. If it looks like they are getting “longer,” there is a decent chance that – rather than the tips of your teeth suddenly extending downwards – your gums are actually receding upwards. That is a common indicator that periodontal disease is becoming more severe.

As we get older, our gum lines do tend to recede to a certain extent. However, it is not unavoidable. In fact, both gum recession and an increase in the depth of your gum pockets (the space between gums and teeth) can be indicative of your periodontal health regardless of age. When you suspect you are experiencing a sudden change in either, it is time to visit your dentist.

About the Author

Dr. Harris has been a practicing dentist since 2005. In 2012, he received his Master’s of Science in Dentistry and a certificate in Endodontics. He founded East Coast Endodontics shortly after receiving his master’s degree. He also currently holds a part-time position as a Clinical Assistant Professor for the Endodontics department at Virginia Commonwealth University. View his full bio.