How can I tell if I have gum disease?

When left unchecked, gum disease–also called periodontitis–causes bone loss in the teeth and jaw, ultimately leading to tooth loss.

The inflammation that is symptomatic of gum disease is an immune reaction. It’s the body’s way of trying to attack and get rid of foreign substances, namely food detritus, the bacteria that feed on it, and the waste byproducts left behind by the bacteria. If your gums hurt or bleed when you brush or floss, then you probably have gum disease. Healthy gums do not bleed when you floss.

To avoid gum disease, brush and floss regularly, and see your dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings. If you haven’t seen a dentist for a long time, a more intensive treatment, such as scaling and root planing (also known as deep cleaning or SRP), may be recommended to remove hard plaques that have built up below the gumline.