5 Early Warning Signs of Gum Disease You Shouldn’t Ignore

Medically reviewed by Dr Gloria Kong

How do you know if you have gum disease? As a dentist who has helped treat many patients suffering from various stages of gum disease, I have written this mini article to help you uncover the early stages of periodontal disease. This article can help you identify warning signs of gum disease so that you are able to take quicker preventative action.  

Periodontal disease or gum disease is a common oral health condition affecting about 90% of adult Singaporeans. It varies from a mild form, such as gingivitis - to a severe form known as periodontitis. 

It is caused by plaque build-up and bacteria along the gum line, leading to inflammation and infection due to poor brushing and flossing habits. 

Untreated gum disease can cause:  

  • Damage to the gums 
  • Damage to the bones supporting the teeth 
  • Tooth loss, and  
  • Cause other health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD), amongst other body-health issues.  

Hence, knowing what the warning signs are early on can help effectively prevent gum disease from becoming severe.  


What are the Early Warning Signs of Gum Disease? 

Gum disease often goes unnoticed in its early stages (gingivitis). This is one of the reasons why it may progress into a severe condition (periodontitis) if left untreated. 

Let us take a closer look at the early signs of gum disease that you should not ignore. 


Bleeding gums 

Bleeding gums can be an early sign of gingivitis (the initial stage of gum disease). You must not ignore it. If left untreated, gum disease can damage the soft tissues and bones that support your teeth, leading to tooth loss. 

However, bleeding gums can be a result of any of the following:  

  • Bleeding disorders 
  • Hormonal changes because of pregnancy 
  • Brushing or flossing too hard 
  • Improper flossing techniques 
  • Abrasions caused by ill-fitting dentures or dental appliances  
  • An infection of the tooth or gums 
  • Leukaemia  
  • Scurvy 


It would not be wise to ignore bleeding gums as this can lead to the progression of gum disease. Frequent bleeding gums can even be a sign of a more serious health condition.  

If you suffer from bleeding gums, the best course of action would be to seek prompt dental care. A periodontist can diagnose and provide gum disease treatment to help you keep your gums and teeth healthy.  


Red, swollen gums 

If your gums are red, swollen, and tender to the touch, it could be an early sign of gum disease (gingivitis). Your gums might be becoming inflamed due to the buildup of plaque and bacteria.  

When you notice that your gums are red and swollen, you should seek immediate dental attention. Timely treatment can prevent the disease from advancing and promote optimal oral health.  

Patients who delay treatment often find themselves having to spend more money on costly dental procedures. The following table highlights the average cost of treating gum disease in the early stages versus when your condition has deteriorated.  Should cost be a cause of concern, there are governmental subsidies like Medisave available to reduce your cost of gum disease treatment (if your treatment qualifies). 


Early-Stage Gum Disease Treatment Late-Stage Gum Disease Treatment
$500 – $1,500 $3000 – $10,000

Should you suffer from red and swollen gums, a dentist will typically carry out a comprehensive cleaning procedure. This would include scaling and root planing, to eliminate plaque and tartar accumulation from your teeth and gums. The treatment helps to reduce inflammation and hinder the growth of harmful bacteria. 


Receding gums 

Receding gums occur when the gums around the teeth begin to pull back. When gums recede, they expose more of your tooth and its roots.  

This receding effect can cause spaces, called “pockets,” to form between the teeth and gum line, increasing the risk of infections and diseases.  

Receding gums can be caused by:  

  • Gum disease 
  • Aggressive brushing  
  • Smoking  
  • Hormonal changes 
  • Genetics, and  
  • Ageing  


Untreated receding gums can lead to increased sensitivity, tooth decay, and gum infection. 

If you have noticed that your gums are receding, it might be time to schedule a consultation with your dentist.  


Sensitive Teeth 

Sensitive teeth, otherwise known as hypersensitive teeth, is a common dental condition characterised by discomfort in the teeth when exposed to hot or cold temperatures. This sensitivity can be an early sign of gum disease. 

Receding gums can lead to sensitive teeth by exposing the roots of the teeth, which are no longer protected by the gums. This exposure may result in sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures. 

If you have sensitive teeth, do seek dental care to determine the underlying cause and receive proper treatment. 


Bad Breath 

Bad breath or a persistent bad taste in the mouth may be a warning sign of gum disease. This is caused by the presence of odour-causing bacteria in the mouth that produce smelly volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs).   

Bad breath is often associated with:  

  • Poor oral hygiene,  
  • Irritated gums,  
  • Cavities,  
  • The use of certain medications,  
  • Tobacco use, and  
  • Certain medical conditions like cancer, diabetes, GERD, liver disease 


A visit to a dentist can help rule out the underlying cause of your bad breath. A custom treatment plan can be created for you to solve your bad breath and lingering bad taste in the mouth.   

Read more: Top 5 Reasons to Visit a Dentist 


The Bottom Line 

If you have experienced any of the early warning signs of gum disease listed above, please make time to visit a dentist or periodontist as soon as possible. Use home treatments for gum disease treatment in the meantime while waiting for your dental appointment. Early treatment can help reverse gingivitis and prevent serious gum disease from progressing.  

To find an experienced dentist who can help treat gum disease:  


Please feel free to call our clinic at: 

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Let us know your concerns and our clinic staff will get back to you in 1-2 hours.

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