Warning Signs of Gum Disease

by Dr. Diane Hourigan

When we are children, the concept of brushing and flossing is drilled into our collective subconscious, but most of the scare tactics used to convince us to brush and floss revolve around what will happen to our teeth if we don’t. The fear of cavities often is the major selling point, but the truth is that gum disease can be just as problematic long-term, and brushing and flossing regularly is every bit as good for the gums as it is for the teeth.

Thankfully, periodontal (gum) disease can be prevented in part by better brushing and flossing habits, but if left untreated it can lead to serious long-term problems, including sore, bleeding gums, painful chewing problems, and possibly even tooth loss.

The following are some of the warning signs for periodontal disease that suggest you should visit your general dentist sometime soon for a deeper cleaning and a consultation about how to take better care of your gums moving forward:

#1 Bleeding Gums

Perhaps the most common byproduct of gum disease is bleeding gums, which more often are irritated when you brush or floss, though it can happen when you eat hard foods, as well. If you do notice some blood along your gum line when you floss, it most likely is a result of bacteria buildup along the gum line, which is causing gingivitis—an early form of periodontitis.

#2 Receding Gums

If left unresolved, that early-stage periodontitis can lead to receding gums, which means your teeth have started to appear longer when you smile. This is common in many older patients but is not reserved exclusively for them. Bacterial infection actually is destroying gum tissue in this instance, so receding gums are a major red flag for gum disease.

#3 Halitosis

Persistent bad breath, also known as halitosis, also can be a symptom of gum disease. The bacteria caught at the gum line can create a bad odor or bad taste in your mouth, so if you feel as though you’ve got bad breath that just won’t quit, it’s possible gum disease it at least partially to blame.

#4 Tender/Swollen Gums

If your gums have begun to look swollen and/or redder than usual, that should be a red flag that something isn’t right with them. Left alone too long, this type of inflammation can cause big problems on the gum tissue and the bone in your teeth, and can even lead to the loss of teeth long-term.

#5 Tooth Sensitivity

Sensitive teeth can be caused by any of a number of things, but one potential root of the cause could be gum disease. Any kind of tooth sensitivity should be checked out by your general dentist, but in conjunction with any of these other symptoms, it could represent the beginnings of periodontal disease.

Your Trusted Chapel Hill Dentist

Keep an eye out for these symptoms, and understand that in many cases the fix to these issues boils down to taking better care of your teeth and gums. Brush more often and more thoroughly, and don’t forget to floss. And, as always, if you need a deeper cleaning or think you may be suffering from more serious gum disease, do not hesitate to reach out to the office of Dr. Diane Hourigan any time. She and her staff will help get your gums healthy again!

Source: https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/gum-disease/more-info


The holidays are upon us, and many of us are preparing to celebrate with family gatherings that include all our favorite seasonal foods. But with all the excitement, it’s easy to forget that these foods can have on your teeth.

4 Foods to Avoid during the Holidays

Your Chapel Hill, NC general dentist wants you to enjoy the holidays in a way that doesn’t compromise your oral health. Here are 4 delicious holiday foods that can also be bad for your dental health.

  • Popcorn – Popcorn is a holiday favorite, but at this time of year it’s often drenched with caramel for a sweet, satisfying treat. Unfortunately, the hard kernels can crack or break a tooth, and they also get stuck between your teeth which can lead to bacterial growth and other complications. If you want to indulge, rinse your mouth and floss as soon as possible.
  • Deeply-colored foods – Some deeply-colored foods can be very healthy, like beets or curry. But the downside is that these types of foods can quickly stain your teeth. Remember to immediately rinse your mouth with warm water or a mouthwash after you consume these foods during your holiday feast.
  • Carbonated sugary drinks – Consumption of carbonated drinks has increased dramatically, but the sugar in these drinks linger in your mouth and form acid that eats away at dental enamel and leads to decay. Try substituting with water or water-infused fruit juice to quench your thirst and keep your teeth healthy.
  • Tomato products (ketchup, hot sauce, pasta sauce) – The acidity level of tomato products can soften the enamel of your teeth, resulting in increased tooth sensitivity or tooth decay. Dental enamel is also prone to stains due to the dark color of tomato sauces. Adding water to the sauce can help decrease acidity levels. 

Please Call for More Information

Your Chapel Hill, NC general dentist is committed to providing you with all the information you need to keep your smile healthy. Please don’t hesitate to call us to learn more!


For the most part, people visit their dentists when they need a routine cleaning or to get a cavity filled, but emergency dentist services exist at the offices of Dr. Diane Hourigan because sometimes people incur unexpected damage to their teeth that requires immediate attention. While there are a number of ways that someone can chip or crack their teeth, we find there are a surprising number of patients who find themselves in trouble simply because of something they ate.

It's hard to think of certain foods as “dangerous,” but it is true that some foods are much more likely to crack or chip a tooth than others. The following are some of the more common foods responsible for causing damage to teeth:


While candy is bad for teeth anyway because of its high sugar content, hard or frozen candy can be a problem in a different way if you bite into a morsel that is especially tough. Jawbreakers, butterscotch discs, rock candy, and Jolly Ranchers are the types of candies that can do the most damage, so take your time eating them so you don’t damage your teeth.


While popcorn itself is fluffy and soft, it’s hard to know when those hidden unpopped kernels lie beneath the pillowy exteriors of the treat. If you hit a seed, it can crack or chip a tooth.

Crunchy Produce

Not all raw vegetables require a hard chomp from teeth, but certain culprits like carrots and apples have been known to cause some problems. They are hard enough where, if bitten into at just the right angle, they can chip a tooth.

Ice Cubes

Plenty of people enjoy chewing on ice cubes, but as it literally is frozen water, doing so can cause massive problems for teeth. Sucking on an ice cube is a fine way to enjoy the guilt-free coldness, so avoid chewing down on them if you can.


Almonds are maybe the worst culprit, but all nuts can be hard to chew and therefore tough on teeth.

Bone-In Meat

While the meat itself is not the problem in foods like ribs or chicken wings, many people get a little too excited and chew right through the meat to the bone. Should your teeth hit that bone with reckless abandon, it could chip or crack a tooth fairly easily.

Fruit with Pits

The same problem exists for fruit with pits, such as peaches or plums. Once you get past the soft fruit, the rock-solid pit in the middle can cause some serious issues.

Schedule an Appointment

If you should ever end up with a damaged tooth that requires emergency dental care, please call the office of Dr. Diane Hourigan, and we’ll work to get you in as soon as possible to repair the damage. As a respected general dentist, she has a lot of experience making these types of repairs, but remember to tread carefully when eating these foods anyway, just in case!