The Three Stages of Gum Disease

The Three Stages of Gum Disease

Gum disease affects nearly half of all adults over the age of 30 and is a leading cause of tooth loss, yet it’s largely preventable. Also called periodontal, gum disease can negatively impact your oral and overall health. In its earliest stage, gum disease is reversible. Here’s what you need to know.

What is gum disease? 

Gum disease is an inflammation of gum tissue caused by an infection that breaks down the soft tissue. If left untreated, gum disease can weaken the bone that anchors your teeth. Under normal, healthy conditions, your teeth are held snugly against your gums. But when naturally occurring bacteria in your mouth create a sticky film called plaque, and that plaque is allowed to build up, it can create a perfect storm of bacteria and toxins that can threaten the firm grip.

Three stages occur over time

The vital thing to remember about gum disease is that it doesn’t happen overnight but unfolds over months and years. The good news is that it enables you and your dentist to take control of the situation, mitigating damage and reversing it. The stages are gingivitis, periodontitis, and advanced periodontitis.

Stage 1: Gingivitis

Gingivitis is probably the most familiar stage to you. In this stage, plaque starts building up on your teeth, and you may notice some gum tenderness and inflammation. The telltale sign is bleeding when you brush your teeth most people. During this stage, gum disease can be stopped from progressing further, and in a vast majority of cases, any damage that has taken place can be reversed. 

Stage 2: Periodontitis

If gingivitis progresses, it may move into the next stage — periodontitis. At this juncture, gum bleeding is more common, and your teeth may even become loose as pockets form between your teeth and gums. Your provider will probably recommend a deep-cleaning procedure called scaling and root planing, which removes the plaque and tartar buildup and discourages future occurrences by smoothing out parts of the tooth-root surfaces.

Stage 3: Advanced periodontitis

Although some damage in the second stage may be reversed, the damage becomes permanent by the time gum disease reaches the advanced stage. During advanced periodontitis, your teeth shift, and the soft connective tissue that was once firmly anchored to your teeth will have degraded to the point that your teeth may need to be extracted. 

The most common cause of tooth loss

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss for adults. While losing your teeth can be a scary notion, just because you notice bleeding when brushing your teeth doesn’t mean tooth loss is inevitable.

Highly preventive with at-home care and checkups

Knowing the stages of gum disease and how to maintain healthy teeth is a winning combination that may prevent you from succumbing to painful and irreversible gum disease. A commitment to a vigilant at-home oral care routine of brushing and flossing, and visiting your dentist for regular professional cleaning appointments and checkups, will go a long way toward keeping your smile healthy.

If you think you may have gum disease, and for all of your oral healthcare needs, make a book an appointment with Johnny L Smith, D.M.D at Westbrook Dental Center in Peoria, AZ. 

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