Gum (Periodontal) Disease

Symptoms and Diagnosis


Symptoms of gum disease may include:

  • bad breath that won't go away
  • red or swollen gums
  • tender or bleeding gums
  • painful chewing
  • loose teeth
  • sensitive teeth
  • receding gums or longer appearing teeth

If You Have Symptoms

Any of these symptoms may be a sign of a serious problem that should be checked by a dentist. Sometimes gum disease has no clear symptoms.

At your dental visit, the dentist or hygienist should

  • ask about your medical history to identify any conditions or risk factors (such as smoking) that may contribute to gum disease.
  • examine your gums and note any signs of inflammation.
  • use a tiny ruler called a 'probe' to check for and measure any pockets. In a healthy mouth, the depth of these pockets is usually between 1 and 3 millimeters. This test for pocket depth is usually painless.

The dentist or hygienist may also

  • take an x-ray to see whether there is any bone loss and to examine the condition of the teeth and supporting tissues.
  • refer you to a periodontist. Periodontists are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of gum disease and may provide you with treatment options that are not offered by your dentist.