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Are Swollen Gums a Sign of Periodontal Disease?

  • May 20 2020

How worried should I be if I have swollen gums?

Everyone experiences swollen gums from time to time. Sometimes it’s nothing more than a pesky piece of food, like a husk from popcorn, that has become lodged between the tooth and the gum. The swelling can develop simply from the presence of the foreign object but can also be exacerbated by repeated attempts at removal. This can lead to tenderness and discomfort, but, typically, once the food particle has been removed, the pain goes away, and the gum returns to normal. 

Not all gum swelling is this benign. The majority of Americans, at least 75% of all adults, will develop some form of gum disease, known as periodontal disease, at some point during their lifetime, and swollen gums are usually the first sign of what can be a very serious problem.  

What Is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease includes gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is usually thought of as the early stage of gum disease, which, if not treated successfully will lead to a more serious case of periodontitis. While this is often the progression, not all cases of gingivitis become this extreme. 

Gingivitis develops from a buildup of bacteria-containing plaque that forms at the base of one or more teeth. This plaque is often located below the gum line, which makes it very difficult to remove other than with a professional cleaning. It causes inflammation and soreness in the gums and may also result in bleeding when teeth are brushed. 

Professional removal of the plaque is usually sufficient for treating gingivitis and, at this stage of gum disease, there is typically no permanent tissue or bone damage.

Gum disease that is allowed to progress can lead to permanent damage. When the infection in the gums becomes full-blown periodontitis, it begins to build up in pockets that form between the gums and the teeth. This results in the gums and supporting bone structure pulling away from the teeth. The combination of toxins produced by the bacteria and the chemicals sent by the body’s immune system begin causing actual destruction of the bone and tissue. In time, this damage can weaken the structure holding the teeth in place and lead to tooth loss.  

Preventing Gum Disease

Gum disease is not something to take lightly: it is the number one cause of tooth loss in adults in the U.S. Your first line of defense is practicing good dental hygiene. This consists of daily brushing and flossing combined with regular dental visits and professional cleaning. Even the most diligent brushing and flossing cannot always remove all of the plaque that leads to gum disease, which makes those cleanings so important.

Recognizing the signs of periodontal disease is the next most important thing that you can do to keep your gums healthy. Some of the most common symptoms to be on the lookout for include:

  • swollen gums
  • gums that are tender or look red
  • bleeding, often when brushing teeth
  • gums that appear to be receding, pulling away from teeth or forming pockets
  • frequent or ongoing bad breath or bad taste in the mouth (not associated with eating a certain food)
  • tooth or teeth that feel loose (permanent teeth)
  • bite pattern that feels like it has shifted

Not all signs of gum disease are obvious, especially in the beginning. Paying attention to anything different or that seems to be changing will help catch gum disease before serious damage can be done and when it is easiest to treat. 

If you have questions about swollen gums or any of our services, whether dentistry or aesthetics, Forest Hills Dentistry is dedicated to delivering the highest quality services possible. We offer the latest and most current information and services to our patients with a new state-of-the-art facility in Forest Hills, Queens. Patient comfort, individualized care and complete satisfaction are our priority. 

For more information or to schedule an appointment, you are invited to use our online form by clicking here.

Categories: Periodontics

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