Have you noticed that as some people age, their teeth look longer and longer? This may well be where the phrase, “long in the tooth,” originated. It’s not the most flattering term, to be sure, but it sure is descriptive. If you’ve noticed lately that your teeth are looking longer than they once did, it’s not a sign that you’re getting older. It’s a sign that you need to see your dentist.

The risk of gum disease rises dramatically after the age of 35. It’s pretty much a silent disease because few people are aware they have it until it’s in its advanced stages. Often, they don’t realize it until they realize their teeth are getting longer, more visible, or even loose. Gum disease develops very slowly as plaque and bacteria build up along the gum-line.

The plaque irritates the gums if it isn’t promptly removed through brushing and flossing. In these early stages of gum disease, gingivitis, you might notice a little blood on your floss or your toothbrush, but if you aren’t regularly brushing or flossing, you might miss it. As gum disease progresses, small pockets form in the gums. Bacteria begin to build up in these pockets as plaque hardens into tartar along the gum-line.

The pockets provide a breeding ground for more bacteria and can even develop pus. Bad breath ensues. Tartar provides even more places for bacteria to grow, and it irritates the gums even more. Your gums may begin to look swollen, red or purple, and inflamed. They may bleed quite easily now, but still, if you aren’t flossing, you may not notice it.

You may suffer from severe bad breath, or you may notice a bad taste in your mouth when you eat. That could be due to bleeding. Your gums will eventually begin to pull away from your teeth, and this is why they’ll start looking longer, i.e., “long in the tooth.” Gingivitis has now progressed into periodontists.

Your dentist will need to act quickly to save your teeth and gums at this point, and that means you need to act quickly to visit your dentist. If your gum disease continues to progress, and it will without professional help, it will lead to tooth loss, jaw bone loss, potential widespread infection, an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, and other serious health issues. Gum disease is a serious issue. Don’t get “long in the tooth.” Brush at least twice daily with a soft-bristled brush, floss every single day, and see your dentist twice a year or on his or her recommended schedule. Keep your teeth for life!