If you’re like many people, pain is your benchmark. Only when pain will not subside, or you exceed your pain threshold, will you make an appointment with a doctor or a dentist.
For many maladies, pain is a reliable benchmark—but gum infections are not one of them. While a gum infection may indeed trigger pain or discomfort, there are other signs you should be on the lookout for, too. Gum infections can cause everything from a mild inflammation to advanced gum disease, which is known as periodontitis. Chronic periodontitis afflicts nearly half of all adults in the United States, according to the American Dental Association. It can lead to the loss of bone and tissue that support the teeth and, in the worst cases, tooth loss.
Track the Varied Symptoms
Aside from pain or discomfort, other physical signs of infection include gums that:
- Are red or swollen
- Bleed easily
- Feel tender to the touch
- Have pulled away or are breaking away from teeth
Your teeth also may signal that you have a gum infection if they:
- Become loose or begin to disintegrate
- Develop new spaces between them
- Feel differently when you chew or bite food
- Generate pus
- Register an extreme reaction to hot or cold temperatures
Still, other symptoms are easy to attribute to another temporary or harmless cause, which is why all symptoms of a gum infection should be viewed collectively:
- A long-lasting bad taste in the mouth (well beyond the normal time it usually takes for a spicy dinner to leave your palate)
- Chronically bad breath that isn’t mitigated by gum or breath mints
- Painful chewing, often experienced in the jaw
Regular Dental Checkups Can Blunt a Painful Diagnosis
While these symptoms are reliable signs of a gum infection, it is possible to have an infection and experience no physical symptoms whatsoever. This is why it’s important to schedule regular checkups with your dentist. He or she will be sure to examine your mouth thoroughly and:
- Detect any faint traces of inflammation
- Use a small ruler, called a probe, to check for and measure any pockets. In a healthy mouth, the depth of these pockets usually ranges from 1 to 3 millimeters. In an infected mouth, the pockets are deeper.
- Inquire about your medical history to identify any risk factors for gum infection and gum disease. You can break down the risk factors for gum infection into two basic categories: those you cannot control and those you can.
Uncontrollable Risk Factors
- Advancing age
- Decreased immunity, often caused by disease or a medical treatment (such as chemotherapy)
- Diabetes, which puts people at risk for developing many types of infections, including gum infections and gum disease
- Genetics and family history
- Hormonal changes in women, especially those related to pregnancy and menopause
- Over-the-counter and prescription medications. Those that cause “dry mouth” or reduce the flow of saliva can make the mouth more vulnerable to infection. And some medications can cause an overgrowth of gum tissue, which becomes problematic if teeth and gums become difficult to clean.
Controllable Risk Factors
- Bad dietary habits
- Failure to brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss once a day
- Poor-fitting dental restorations
- Substance abuse
- Tobacco use, which also can interfere with the treatment of a gum infection
Rest assured that if you do develop a gum infection, Dr. Sevor will answer your questions and help steer you toward better oral health. As the founder of Central Florida Periodontics & Implantology, he became central Florida’s premier dentist because he is his patients’ best health advocate when they need him most—and he can become yours, too.