Gum disease is the most common causes of tooth loss in adults, spoiling more smiles than cavities and accidents combined. However, the earlier it’s caught the easier it is to treat. What are the symptoms of advancing gum disease to look out for?

1. First Signs

In the very early stages of gum disease, your teeth will seem basically healthy. Your gums will mostly seem normal, with no swelling or irritation. However, you may notice occasional bleeding when eating certain foods such as apples.

While mild smears of blood are normal from time to time even in healthy gums, if you start to notice it frequently then check with your dentist whether you’re actually in the early stages of gum disease.

2. Gingivitis

Gingivitis is the name given to early-stage gum disease, and it’s at this point that it’s usually first noticed. The plaque on your teeth has started to build up, causing irritation and swelling. Your gums may start to bleed more often, and can even start to discharge a milky white material called exudate.

Your dentist can help cure gingivitis by giving your teeth a thorough clean to remove the excess plaque. However, gingivitis is usually a sign that you’ll need to step up your brushing and flossing game in future to prevent it returning.

3. Early Periodontitis

If gingivitis is left untreated, it will usually progress into the early stage of periodontitis, also known as periodontal disease. Your gums will be inflamed and tender to the touch, and may have turned a paler color as the blood supply is reduced.

The plaque around your teeth will start to harden into a tougher, more damaging material called calculus or tartar, and this causes the damage to accelerate. At this stage, the bone structures anchoring your teeth to your jaw may be beginning to weaken, and you should see your dentist quickly to reduce the risk of tooth loss.

4. Moderate Periodontitis

In stage four the periodontal disease has taken a firm hold. Your gums will be visibly receding, exposing tender tooth enamel which can be easily damaged and then start to decay. The hidden damage to your jawbone will start to become noticeable as your teeth start to loosen, becoming wobbly or even moving position.

What’s more, at this point a discharge is likely to happen fairly often, noticeable by a strongly unpleasant taste in your mouth. This is a sign that infection has set in, and the risk to your teeth is now severe.

5. Advanced Periodontitis

In the advanced stage of periodontitis, your gums will be visibly shrunken and large portions of your teeth will be exposed. Many teeth will be loose, even ones which look healthy, as the infection is now attacking your jawbone itself. Without treatment, tooth loss is now almost inevitable.

In the early stages of periodontal disease, thorough cleaning and a course of antibiotics is usually enough to stop it progressing, and can even start to repair the damage. However, the longer it’s left untreated, the harder it is to cure. Advanced periodontitis may require invasive dental surgery to clear out all traces of the disease, and even then the damage may have gone too far to be fixed.

Because of this difficulty, it’s vital to visit your dentist as soon as you spot any signs of trouble. The earlier you take action, the quicker you can return your gums to full health.