Many people are under the mistaken impression that periodontal disease isn’t serious, perhaps because it starts with such mild symptoms. Red, swollen gums often go unnoticed; even when gums bleed when brushing or flossing, you may disregard these symptoms or put off seeking treatment. Unfortunately, gum disease can quickly progress from minor nuisance to a serious disease that compromises not only your oral health, but your overall health as well. Below, we describe the 4 stages of periodontal disease.
Stages of Periodontal Disease
Although poor oral hygiene habits are the most common cause of periodontal disease, there are a number of factors at play. Certain medications that cause dry mouth, diabetes, and other health conditions can make you more susceptible to gum disease. By understanding the earliest stages of periodontal disease, you can take a proactive approach and prevent the disease from progressing and causing permanent damage to your teeth and gums.
Stage 1: Gingivitis
Gingivitis is considered either a precursor to gum disease or the first stage; regardless, gingivitis is the only point at which the disease can be fully reversed before it causes any lasting damage.
Plaque and tartar buildup on and around the teeth harbors the bacteria that causes gingivitis. This bacteria causes redness, swelling, and bad breath. When you brush or floss, you may notice that your gums bleed—sometimes, they may start to bleed for no apparent reason. Because these initial symptoms can appear gradually, you may not notice them yourself, but if you see your dentist every six months for comprehensive oral evaluations, your gingivitis can be diagnosed and treated at this stage. Often, treatment is simply a matter of getting back on track with regular dental cleanings and good oral hygiene habits.
Stage 2: Initial or Early Periodontal Disease
The plaque and tartar buildup that causes gingivitis occurs around the gumline, but once this buildup goes below the gumline, you have progressed to early periodontal disease.
Patients with early periodontal disease still experience the symptoms of gingivitis—redness, swelling, and bleeding—but the gums begin to pull away from the roots of the teeth, creating what we call periodontal pockets. These pockets leave space for more plaque and tartar to collect, causing infection, and because they are below the gumline, they cannot be cleaned with brushing or flossing. At this point, gum disease begins to progress more quickly.
Stage 3: Mild or Moderate Periodontal Disease
The periodontal tissue continues to pull away from the roots of the teeth as periodontal disease progresses. The infection begins to break down the connective tissues that hold your teeth in place and the gums recede further, which allows the infection to attack the jawbone.
Although the gum disease infection can be treated at this point, the damage that it has caused will have to be addressed with additional periodontal and restorative treatments. We use scaling and root planing to remove the disease-causing bacteria and create a smooth surface on the roots of the teeth to encourage the gums to reattach.
Stage 4: Advanced Periodontal Disease
When periodontal disease reaches its fourth stage, the infection deepens and bone loss in the jaw is very likely. In addition to redness, swelling, and bleeding, you may notice pus seeping from your gums. Your teeth may become loose or shift in your mouth, and bad breath is typically severe. Gum recession causes painful tooth sensitivity, requiring gum grafting to reverse.
In stage 4, periodontal surgery is usually needed to halt the progression of disease and save your remaining teeth and jawbone. When advanced periodontal disease is not treated, the end result is usually bone and tooth loss. Gum disease is also linked to a range of health conditions, from diabetes and cardiovascular disease to preterm birth.
Learn More About Periodontal Disease
Are you worried that you have periodontal disease? Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a consultation at our offices in Middletown or New Britain, CT.