The Top 3 Gum Disease Symptoms

Dental Tool in Gum

Did you know that according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least half of American adults over the age of 30 have an advanced form of gum disease. With 64.7 million Americans affected, gum disease is one of the most common oral health issues.

There are two different forms of periodontal disease that can affect the gums. Early gum disease, also known as gingivitis, can usually be reversed with treatment and good oral hygiene. Advanced gum disease, also known as periodontitis, cannot be reversed and can only be managed through treatment. 

One unfortunate reason that so many people are affected by advanced gum disease is the fact that many people are unfamiliar with the early symptoms. Since gum disease is progressive, not seeking treatment in the early stages can easily result in gingivitis progressing into periodontitis. In order to help reduce the prevalence of gum disease and to decrease its severity, here are the top three gum disease symptoms to be aware of:

Illustration of inflamed gums

Change in Gum Appearance

Healthy gums should be a coral pink color and should be tightly attached to the teeth. One of the first symptoms of gum disease is a deviation from this. Gums that appear red or swollen are a good indicator of gingivitis. When affected by gingivitis, gums change in appearance because plaque and bacteria have gotten caught in the gum pockets. This causes the gums to become irritated and inflamed, which results in redness and swelling, as well as possible bleeding. If left untreated, the gums will eventually start to pull away from the tooth roots. When this happens, the teeth may suddenly look larger than before as a result of gum recession. 

Changes in the Teeth

Although many people assume that gum disease only affects the gums, it actually affects the teeth as well. The gums are one of the teeth’s supporting structures, so when they are compromised so are the teeth. For example, the teeth may suddenly become loose and may shift in position. People who wear partial dentures often notice that they stop fitting properly. As a result of teeth shifting, the bite may also be affected and the top and bottom jaw may no longer fit together properly. 


This is often one of the last early symptoms of gum disease and is usually when patients make an appointment. Pain associated with gum disease can take a few different forms. First, pain can be in the form of gum tenderness when brushing or flossing. It can also exhibit itself as pain while chewing. Finally, pain in the form of tooth sensitivity to sweets, hot, and cold can occur. While tenderness in the gums and pain while chewing is a result of inflammation and possible shifting teeth, pain caused by tooth sensitivity is usually the result of exposed tooth roots due to gum recession. Despite the various types of pain gum disease may cause, it is important to note that some cases of gum disease never cause pain. 

Changes in the gums appearances, changes in the teeth, or pain are the top three gum disease symptoms to look out for. Any one of these three symptoms may indicate the presence of early gum disease. As mentioned before, gingivitis can usually be reversed with treatment, while periodontitis can only be managed. Therefore seeking early treatment for gum disease has much better treatment outcomes. Finally, to prevent the development of advanced gum disease, it is important to schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings with your general dentist. If you think you may be affected by gum disease, see “Gum Disease Treatment” for more information.

Dr. Stephen Malone received his Doctorate of Dental Medicine Degree from the University of Louisville in 1994 and has practiced dentistry in Knoxville for over 20 years. He believes in the value of continuing dental education and has pursued hands-on and mentored advanced dental education every year since earning his doctorate. He participates in multiple dental study clubs and professional organizations, where he has taken a leadership role.

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