Cavities aren’t the only consequences of excessive plaque buildup. It also irritates the gums, and can lead to a serious infection called periodontal (gum) disease. And because it is a progressive condition, if gum disease is not treated promptly, the complications can quickly become severe.
Understanding the different stages of gum disease and knowing what they each look like can help you maintain a healthy smile. In this article, we’ll explain how gum disease progresses over time, and list the warning signs to watch out for.
Stage 1: Gingivitis
The earliest stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. If it’s detected early enough, gingivitis can often be reversed with improved oral hygiene and a professional dental cleaning. If you have any signs of gingivitis, see your dentist as soon as possible, and be sure to keep flossing and brushing your teeth every day.
Common symptoms of gingivitis include:
- Red or swollen gums
- Gums that bleed easily when brushing or flossing
- Tender gums
Stage 2: Mild Periodontitis
After gum disease progresses past gingivitis, it is no longer reversible. At this stage, the bacteria causing the infection have spread beneath the gums and started attacking the supporting bone. Treatment may involve scaling and root planing, also known as a deep teeth cleaning.
Early signs of periodontitis include:
- Receding gums
- Pockets of plaque and food debris (a result of the gums pulling away from the teeth)
- Wider spaces between your teeth
Stage 3: Moderate Periodontitis
With moderate periodontitis, the bacteria continue to attack the bone and gum tissues that support your teeth. Treating moderate periodontitis often requires multiple deep cleanings, and sometimes it may take surgical intervention to stop its progression.
At this stage, you may start noticing additional symptoms, such as:
- Persistent bad breath
- Pus along the gums
- Pain when biting or chewing
Stage 4: Advanced Periodontitis
At this most severe stage, there is a significant risk of tooth loss. The longer that the infection goes untreated, the greater the risk of the bacteria entering the bloodstream and causing inflammation in the heart, lungs, and other organs. Treatment for advanced periodontitis typically involves invasive surgical procedures, such as tooth extractions and bone or gum grafts.
Signs of advanced periodontal disease include:
- Loose teeth
- Tooth loss
- Severe pain
- Gum abscesses (pockets of pus)
How to Prevent Periodontal Disease
The leading cause of gum disease is poor oral hygiene. But you can keep periodontal disease at bay by following these five tips.
- Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes at a time.
- Use mouthwash to kill plaque-forming bacteria.
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to avoid irritating your gums.
- Floss every day to remove plaque from between your teeth.
- Get your teeth professionally cleaned at least twice a year—only a dentist or oral hygienist can remove plaque that has hardened into tartar. They will also be able to spot any early signs of gum disease that you did not notice.
If you already have gingivitis, following these preventative steps is especially crucial. Gum disease can easily return if you allow plaque to build up on your teeth.
Concerned About Your Gums?
Healthy gums are pink and firm. If you notice any of the symptoms we’ve discussed or have other concerns about your oral health, contact us right away. At Copper Creek Dental in Daybreak, we provide comprehensive dental treatments that can stop gum disease in its tracks and prevent it from returning. Call us at 801-280-1911 today to make an appointment.