What are the signs of gingivitis or serious gum disease?

Often there are no signs of serious gum disease. You may not know you have it until you have some serious damage. Regular dental visits are your best weapon.

The first stage of gum disease is gingivitis. If ignored, it can develop into the more severe form of gum disease, known as periodontitis. When this happens, you may need gum surgery to save your teeth.

Some of the possible signs of gingivitis and/or serious gum disease include:
  • Bleeding and red, swollen, or tender gums
  • Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
  • Pus between the teeth and gums (when you press on the gums)
  • Bad breath
  • Permanent teeth that are loose or moving away from each other
  • Changes in the way your teeth fit when you bite
  • Changes in the fit of partial dentures or bridges
If you have any of the above, see your dentist.
The following signs and symptoms indicate that you might have gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease:
  • bleeding gums or blood on your toothbrush
  • swollen or tender gums
  • gums that appear shiny
  • gums that appear bright red or purple
If left untreated, gingivitis can worsen into periodontitis, a more serious gum disease. This condition has many of the same symptoms as gingivitis, but may be more severe and include loose teeth and bad breath. If you have any of the signs of gum disease, see your dentist immediately.
Gingivitis is the mildest form of periodontal disease. If your gums easily become red or swollen and/or bleed easily when you brush or floss, you may have gingivitis.

Other warning signs that can signal a problem:
  • 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 symptoms, schedule an appointment with your dentist right away.

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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.