Can I tell if I have gum disease by checking my gums?

If you suspect you have gum disease, it's important to schedule regular dental checkups so that your dentist can properly diagnose you.

There are several warning signs that can signal a problem:

  • gums that bleed when you brush or floss
  • red, swollen or tender gums
  • gums that have pulled away from your teeth
  • bad breath that doesn't go away
  • pus between the teeth and gums
  • loose or separating teeth
  • a change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • a change in the fit of partial dentures

If you notice any of these warning signs, don't hesitate: schedule a visit to a dentist as soon as possible.

Only a dentist can diagnose gum disease. If you have swollen, painful, or bleeding gums you should see your dentist for an evaluation. Your dentist will examine your gums and surrounding tissues and take x-rays to make a diagnosis. Treatment will involve improving your home care (brushing and flossing) and the removal of plaque and tartar that has built up on your teeth. Sometimes surgery is required to correct the damage from the disease.

Although nobody should self-diagnose 100%, gum disease definitely leaves clues. Amongst them are:

  • Red/swollen gums
  • Gums that bleed
  • Painful gums/teeth
  • bad breath
  • receding gums
  • loose teeth

These symptoms could come from other conditions, mind you, so let your dentist make the final determination.

To see if you have symptoms of gum disease, you need to check your gums in a mirror. Looking very closely, check to see if your gums are red and inflamed. Look on the inside and outside of the gum. Are there signs of bleeding? When you brush your teeth do you notice any bleeding? See if your gums are separating from your teeth. Is there pus between the gum and the tooth? Does the gum feel sensitive to touch? Does the gum hurt? Do you have any loose teeth? Do any of your teeth hurt? Now do a breath test to see if you have breath that smells foul. Sometimes bad breath accompanies gum disease.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.