Gingivitis affects many people.

Your gums play a surprisingly important role in the health of your teeth by protecting their roots and other supporting structures. This is why severe gum disease is so serious; bacteria can begin attacking the supporting structures of your teeth, eventually leading to bone and tooth loss. Despite how severe gum disease can get, it’s surprisingly common in America; 46% of American adults who are 30 years or older have gum disease. When left untreated, gingivitis causes many oral health issues and can progress to periodontitis, which is the leading cause of tooth loss in America. It’s best to know the symptoms of gingivitis so you can head to your dentist early for treatment.

Keep this in mind: Prevention and early detection are so important with gum disease. While the symptoms of gingivitis can be subtle and easy to miss for the average person, you can spot the signs if you know what to look for. Here are the most common symptoms of gingivitis that you can watch out for at home.

Your gums are swollen, tender, or darker in color.

Gingivitis occurs when bacteria-filled plaque builds up on your teeth and begins attacking your gum tissue. As a result, your gums may darken to a deep red, turn slightly purple, or show signs of swelling or inflammation. This inflammation usually isn’t major, manifesting as a slight puffiness, so it can be easy to miss. Gingivitis rarely causes the constant or throbbing pain common in tooth injuries, but you may notice that your gums have become tender to the touch. These are definitely signs you should pay attention to, especially if they last for an extended period of time.

It’s important to note that gingivitis isn’t the only reason your gums might swell up. If food, such as a kernel of corn, gets stuck in your gums, it might irritate them and cause minor swelling. When you notice swelling, you should floss your teeth to remove any debris and watch them for a few days. If they remain swollen, you should call Dr. Sadeghi to evaluate your gum health. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can also cause your gums to swell despite perfect gum health, but since your chances of getting gingivitis during pregnancy are much higher, it’s safer to make a dental appointment.

Your gums bleed when you floss or brush your teeth.

One of the symptoms of gingivitis is the bleeding of your gums due to irritation. Your gums will tend to bleed very easily. You’ll likely notice that your gums bleed when you floss or even when you brush your teeth. This may discourage you from flossing, but it’s the best way to prevent and rid yourself of gingivitis, so you shouldn’t avoid it. After a week or two of daily flossing, your gums should stop bleeding.

If you’re brushing your teeth too hard or if your toothbrush has rough bristles, your gums might start bleeding whether you have gingivitis or not. It’s always best to brush your teeth gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush. If your gums continue to bleed after a few weeks of flossing and brushing regularly, you may want to call your dentist to schedule an appointment.

You have persistent bad breath.

Bad breath is a common problem that can have multiple causes, from something as simple as what you ate to gum disease. While what you ate for lunch will only hang around on your breath for a few hours or days, persistent bad breath over a long period of time is one of the most common symptoms of gingivitis. When you first brush your teeth, you’ll notice that your breath improves for a short period of time, but it will start to smell again very quickly.

Since bad breath can be caused by many other issues, including dry mouth or chronic acid reflux, you may want to try improving your oral hygiene routine and look for additional signs of gingivitis before you call your dentist. If it’s been a while since you’ve seen Dr. Sadeghi, however, it might be better to go ahead and make an appointment, as bad breath can also be caused by untreated cavities.

Your gums are receding.

As gingivitis worsens, your gums may begin to recede. This generally happens over a longer period of time, making it difficult to notice. Pay attention to the spaces between your teeth to see if the gaps seem bigger. You can also try feeling your teeth with the tip of your finger; there should be a slight notch where your gum line used to be. Once again, gingivitis isn’t the only reason your gums might recede. Your age, genes, and hormonal changes from pregnancy or menopause can cause your gums to recede. Since this is a more severe sign of advanced gingivitis, it is always better to call your dentist and schedule an appointment to ensure that your gums are healthy.

Thankfully, treating the symptoms of gingivitis and preventing gingivitis is usually relatively simple. You can use regular oral hygiene, especially flossing, to help remove the bacteria from around your gum line. There are also antibacterial toothpastes and mouthwashes available to help you fight gum disease. If you suspect you have gum disease or would like recommendations on the best products for you to use, feel free to call and schedule an appointment with Dr. Sadeghi at any time.