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What Does Gum Disease Look Like? The Signs and Symptoms

Are you concerned that you have gum disease? Are you wondering what it looks like? The good news is that you can easily tell if you have gum disease. Just look in the mirror and look for the signs and symptoms.

If you look in the mirror and see gums that are red and swollen and/or bleed when you brush it’s likely that you have gum disease. As the disease progresses you may notice that you have bad breath and pockets/gaps between your teeth and gums. You may have ulcers or even loose wobbly teeth that are at risk of falling out. 

Try not to be too concerned if you’re gums look like they are red and swollen or you have spotted any of the other signs, as gum disease can easily be prevented and controlled at home (although it’s always a good idea to see a dentist). However, the quicker you spot the signs and symptoms the easier it will be to treat. In fact, recognizing you have gum disease is crucial for early detection and effective treatment. 

Below we explore the visual indicators and physical manifestations of gum disease, allowing you to better understand what to look out for. By familiarizing yourself with what gum disease looks like, you can take proactive steps towards maintaining optimal oral health.

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Gum Disease vs Healthy Gums

Here’s a picture of what gum disease and healthy gums look like so you can compare them.

The Signs and Symptoms of Gum Disease

Redness and Swelling

One of the earliest signs of gum disease is redness and swelling of the gums. Healthy gums should have a pale pink colour (if you naturally have darker skin your gums may also be darker in color) and firm to the touch. When inflamed they appear red and puffy and can indicate that you have gum disease. 

The inflammation is caused by bacteria, which accumulates along the gum line in a sticky biofilm called plaque that irritates the gums making them red and inflamed. The body also mounts an immune response against the bacterial invasion bringing blood and immune cells to the area. 

Bleeding Gums

Gums that bleed easily, especially during brushing, flossing, or even eating, can be an indication of gum disease. Healthy gums should not bleed, so if you notice consistent bleeding, it is essential to pay attention and seek professional dental advice. 

Bad Breath

As bacteria accumulates along the gum line and in periodontal pockets it can start to smell. This is commonly referred to as halitosis and whilst there are many causes it is frequently associated with gum disease.  Disrupting bacteria and food debris which gets trapped in the pockets will help you maintain a fresh breath. 

Gum Pocket Formation

When inflammation persists the gums can start to peel away from the teeth, causing small pockets or spaces to form between the teeth and gums. Food and bacteria can get trapped in the pockets, referred to as periodontal pockets. The bacteria can now irritate and damage the structures underneath the gum line.  Exacerbating the condition further. 

Dental professionals can measure the depth of these pockets during a dental examination to assess the severity of gum disease.

It’s hard to clean deep periodontal pockets without a dental professional or a gum pocket brush.

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Receding Gumline

Gum disease can cause the destruction of the structures underneath the gumline which support and hold the teeth in place. Bacteria and cells of the immune system (which are trying to eliminate the bacteria) cause damage and destruction to the bone and periodontal ligaments (sadly these structures cannot regrow naturally on their own). As these structures disappear there is less to support the gums and the gums shrink back. This is often referred to as gum recession

As the gums recede or pull away from the teeth, more of the tooth’s surface is exposed. This can make the teeth appear longer and create gaps between the teeth. If you notice your teeth looking longer or experience increased tooth sensitivity, it could be a sign of gum disease.

As the gums recede you also become at risk of developing abfraction lesions, areas in the soft tooth that wear away, causing a hole to develop on the tooth.


In the advanced stages of gum disease, abscesses may develop. An abscess is a painful infection that forms at the root of the tooth or in the gum tissue. It is often accompanied by swelling, pus formation, and a throbbing sensation. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is crucial to seek immediate dental attention.

Loose or Shifting Teeth

As gum disease progresses, and the structures supporting teeth become damaged and destroyed the teeth may become mobile. Affected teeth may feel loose or shift out of their original position. If you notice any changes in the stability of your teeth, it may be a sign of advanced gum disease. 

How Can You Tell If You Have Gingivitis Or Periodontitis? 

The signs and symptoms of gingivitis and periodontitis are similar but as the disease progresses the symptoms become more concerning. 


In the early stages of the disease, when it can be reversible, you may notice that the gums bleed when you brush or floss. On closer inspection, you may see that they look swollen and puffy. You may also notice that you have an unpleasant taste in the mouth. 


When gum disease is allowed to progress to periodontitis you may experience symptoms like:

  • Bad breath
  • Loose, wobbly teeth
  • Teeth which are drifting
  • New or larger spaces between the teeth
  • Pain while chewing
  • Receding gums
  • Tooth loss

What About If You Smoke

Smoking stops the signs and symptoms of gum disease

Those that smoke, may not experience these signs and symptoms. Your gum disease may look different. This is because smoking masks the signs of gum disease like bleeding and red swollen gums. You may not realise you have gum disease until you have gum recession or even loose wobbly teeth. You can find out more about this in our post on tobacco and gum recession

What To Do If You Spot the Signs Of Gum Disease

If you notice any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above it’s important to treat them as soon as possible to cure gingivitis or prevent the progression of periodontitis. Early intervention can help preserve your oral health and prevent further complications associated with gum disease.

Treating Gum Disease

The good news is that you can cure and prevent the progression of gum disease. The key to preventing and treating gum disease is daily performed self-care, which involves developing and maintaining oral hygiene which is first class. 

Brushing the teeth twice a day, and cleaning the interdental spaces as well as the periodontal pockets is the best treatment for gum disease.  For tip-top oral health, you should brush twice a day for two minutes with a fluoride toothbrush,  clean between the teeth with floss or interdental brush and clean periodontal pockets with the unique gum pocket brush

Alongside the many useful posts on our homepage, we also have a free ebook that is packed with handy tips and advice.

If you want to act fast and tackle gum disease today our unparalleled course on beating gum disease is your best bet. 

Join over 6500+ people who have beaten Gum Disease using this method at home without expensive, rushed and ineffective dental visits. Your Gum Disease: Solved.