Symptoms - Gum disease (gingivitis and periodontitis)

Healthy gums should be pink, firm and keep your teeth securely in place. Your gums should not bleed when you touch or brush them.

Gum disease is not always painful and you may be unaware you have it.

It's important to have regular dental check-ups.

Early symptoms – gingivitis

The initial symptoms of gum disease can include:

  • red and swollen gums
  • bleeding gums after brushing or flossing your teeth

This stage of gum disease is called gingivitis.

Advanced symptoms – periodontitis

If gingivitis is untreated, the tissues and bone that support the teeth can also become affected. This is known as periodontitis or periodontal disease.

Symptoms of periodontitis can include:

  • bad breath (halitosis)
  • an unpleasant taste in your mouth
  • loose teeth that can make eating difficult
  • gum abscesses (collections of pus that develop under your gums or teeth)

Acute necrotising ulcerative gingivitis

In rare cases, a condition called acute necrotising ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG) can develop suddenly.

The symptoms of ANUG are usually more severe than those of gum disease and can include:

  • bleeding, painful gums
  • painful ulcers
  • receding gums in between your teeth
  • bad breath
  • a metallic taste in your mouth
  • excess saliva in your mouth
  • difficulty swallowing or talking
  • a high temperature (fever)

When to see a dentist

You should make an appointment to see your dentist if you think you may have gum disease or ANUG.


Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 23 March 2021
Next review due: 23 March 2024

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