The Stages of Gum Disease

Periodontal disease, or gum disease as it is commonly called, is a group of diseases with the same end results; inflammation of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth, destruction of the periodontal ligament, and ultimately tooth loss. Gum disease is caused when bacteria (plaque) are not removed by daily brushing and flossing. The most common form of gum disease and the easiest to treat is gingivitis, but if your oral hygiene routine is slacking and your dental visits are minimal, the bacteria can continue to multiply and will lead to more advanced stages of gum disease that may require invasive periodontal therapy.

The Stages and Their Warning Signs

  • Gingivitis – At this stage, there are few signs and symptoms. In fact, there may be none at all. The most common symptom of gingivitis is the sight of blood in the sink after flossing. Other indications of gingivitis include occasional bad breath, redness, and swelling of the gums. Bone loss has not yet started at the stage and the infection is completely reversible.
  • Periodontitis – At this stage, the supporting bone and fibers that hold your teeth in place are irreversibly damaged. Your gums may begin to form a pocket below the gum line, which traps food and plaque. Some signs to look for are increased redness of gums, worsening bad breath, and bleeding while brushing and flossing.
  • Advanced Periodontal Disease – In this final stage of gum disease, the fibers and bone supporting your teeth are destroyed, which can cause your teeth to shift or loosen. This can affect your bite and, if aggressive enough, teeth may need to be removed if they can’t be saved. Periodontal abscesses can occur in this stage on top of redness, swelling, or oozing gums.

Prevention and Treatment

Regular dental checkups and periodontal examinations are very important when it comes to treating gum disease. Treatment methods depend on the type of disease and how far the condition has progressed. By scheduling regular checkups, the early stages of gum disease can be treated before it leads to a much more serious condition. In between dental visits, patients should be practicing proper oral hygiene by brushing at least twice a day, flossing daily, brushing their tongue and using an American Dental Association (ADA) approved mouth rinse. In addition, other health and lifestyle changes will decrease the risk, severity, and the speed of gum disease development including: quitting smoking, reducing stress, and maintaining a well-balanced diet. 

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