Did you know that 1 in 2 American adults have some stage of gum disease? Besides causing permanent tissue, bone and tooth loss if left untreated, gum disease is also linked to numerous other health issues throughout the body including heart and lung diseases, diabetes, stroke, dementia, and pregnancy complications.
The good news is that gum disease is nearly entirely preventable with good oral hygiene and care, and usually can even be reversed with appropriate care and treatment. Gum disease (aka periodontal disease) is often entirely painless, so watch out for the signs and symptoms at each stage!
The 3 Stages of Gum Disease
Gum disease starts with bacterial plaque, which is constantly forming on our teeth, and is an infection of the tissues that surround and support the teeth. There are three main stages of periodontal disease: gingivitis, periodontitis, and advanced periodontitis. Gum disease is often completely painless, so it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms!
Gingivitis is the mildest and earliest form of periodontal disease. Gums are irritated, inflamed, red, and maybe prone to bleeding when brushing. The space between teeth and gum begin to deepen, forming pockets. Persistent bad breath or a metallic taste in the mouth can occur. Symptoms at this stage can be very mild, and it can be difficult to detect symptoms without a dental exam. There is no permanent damage to bone or other tissues yet, so this stage is highly treatable, usually by simply brushing and flossing regularly and properly. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to the next stage: periodontitis.
Periodontitis is a serious gum infection that has spread to the bone supporting the teeth. Pockets between the teeth get deeper, and debris, bacteria and plaque accumulate and collect below the gum line. Redness, swelling, bleeding, and persistent bad breath develop or worsen. In this stage, some irreversible bone and tissue loss occurs, and teeth may start to feel a bit loose. However, the disease can usually still be reversed at this stage, typically with Scaling and Root Planning (sometimes called a dental “deep cleaning”) treatment.
In Advanced Periodontitis, pockets deepen even more and can fill with pus. Further deterioration of the gum tissue, bone and ligaments that support the teeth occur. Teeth often feel extremely sensitive to temperature, loose, and may even need to be removed to prevent the disease from spreading further. Bacteria may spread from the gums into the bloodstream and affect other parts of the body, like the heart and lungs. Scaling and Root Planning is again typically recommended at this stage, and additional surgical procedures may be recommended as well.
Half of all American adults are suffering from some stage of gum disease, many without even being aware of it. Don’t be on the wrong side of the gum disease statistic! Knowing what to look out for is very important for the sake of not just your oral health but for your overall health.