What Are the Three Stages of Gum Disease?
One of the reasons it is important to practice good dental hygiene habits is because it helps prevent gum disease. There are three distinct stages of disease in the gums, and the good news is that if the condition is recognized in the early stages, steps can be taken to treat it. Once it advances, however, it becomes impossible to reverse and can result in major issues such as tooth loss.
Recognizing the stages of gum disease
Another name for gum disease is periodontal disease. It is caused by plaque buildup and bacteria accumulation on the teeth that eventually inflames and infects the gums. There are three stages of periodontal disease, and the advanced stage of infection not only can seriously impact oral health but may increase the chances of a patient developing heart disease and diabetes. Fortunately, regular dental checkups can catch the disease early on and prevent it from getting worse.
This earliest stage is typically caused by inadequate brushing and flossing. Sometimes there are no obvious symptoms with gingivitis, which is why getting a professional dental exam is important. If there are signs of this early stage, common symptoms include red and swollen gums or bleeding when flossing or brushing. Gingivitis can be treated with a professional cleaning that removes the excessive buildup of plaque as well as good home dental care.
The second step of gum disease is periodontitis, which occurs if gingivitis goes untreated. When the plaque buildup becomes excessive, it creeps under the gumline. This produces toxins that result in inflammation of the gums, leading to gum recession and deeper gaps around the teeth.
There are generally obvious symptoms and signs that periodontitis is affecting the gums. Common ones include:
- Puffy and bright red or purplish gums
- Tender gums
- Excessive bleeding when brushing or flossing
- Gums that separate from the teeth
- Persistent bad breath
- Painful chewing
- Tooth sensitivity
The treatment for periodontitis varies based on its severity. If it is not too advanced, treatment may include antibiotics, root planing, and scaling. Surgery may be necessary to prevent the most advanced stage of gum disease.
The final stage of periodontal disease consists of severe infection, which may ultimately result in tooth loss. When gum recession gets worse, the teeth start to loosen. The infection can cause abscesses, so signs may include pus between the gums and teeth. Other signs include constant bad breath, sensitive teeth, loose teeth, and tooth loss. There is severe jawbone loss with advanced periodontitis, which can eventually affect the surrounding teeth.
To save the affected teeth, extensive gum surgery is necessary, which usually includes hard and soft tissue grafting. Teeth extraction may also be necessary if the damage has gone too far.
Once gum disease has advanced to the final stage, the prognosis is not good. Because early detection of periodontal disease can prevent it from moving to the advanced stages, regular professional dental care is essential.
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