If someone asked you what the leading cause of tooth loss was, you would probably guess cavities. But, surprisingly, gum disease causes tooth loss more than any other oral health problem. Even for someone who has never had a single cavity, their teeth must have a solid foundation of healthy gum tissue and underlying bone to keep them in place. Gum disease damages these supportive structures, but it happens in stages instead of all at once. Also, there are effective ways to prevent or manage this common condition, including regular care from a dentist in Coeur d’Alene, that will prevent tooth loss and maintain a healthy smile. Below, you’ll learn more about the various stages of gum disease and how you can keep your gums healthy!
What are the Stages of Gum Disease?
Early Gum Disease
The earliest stage of gum disease is called gingivitis, which translates to ‘inflamed gums.’ Fortunately, it can be reversed with regular checkups and good oral hygiene. Here are some of the symptoms associated with gingivitis:
- Swollen or puffy gums
- Tenderness or discomfort when you brush or floss
Each of these symptoms is a sign of inflammation. A good rule of thumb to remember is that healthy gums don’t hurt or bleed.
Moderate Gum Disease
When gum disease progresses past gingivitis, it’s called periodontal disease or periodontitis. In healthy gums, there are 1-3mm “pockets” around each tooth that can easily be cleaned with brushing and flossing.
But in moderate and later stages of gum disease, deep “pockets” of gum tissue form around each tooth that collect plaque, tartar and odor-causing bacteria. These deeper pockets are much harder to keep clean at home, leading to a vicious cycle in which the pockets become even deeper and more and more bone support is lost.
At this stage, you might notice the following:
- Gum recession
- Red, bleeding or tender gums
- Chronic bad breath that doesn’t go away after brushing and flossing
Advanced Gum Disease
In advanced stages of gum disease, more of the gum tissue, bone and supportive structures around the teeth have been lost. In particularly advanced cases, the teeth might become loose or feel painful during chewing.
You may also notice the following symptoms at this stage:
- Severely swollen gums
- Heavy bleeding after brushing or flossing
- Pus around your teeth (this indicates an active infection and requires immediate care)
- Chronic odor
Prevention and Treatment of Gum Disease
Much like diabetes, moderate and advanced gum disease can’t be cured or reversed – but it can be managed. The first step is to schedule a checkup to have your gums evaluated.
Regular cleanings and good oral hygiene help to prevent gum disease from ever developing. However, some people have a genetic predisposition that makes them more likely to develop it no matter what, but these measures will at least keep it from progressing.
For moderate or advanced gum disease, a dentist will recommend gum therapy such as an initial scaling and root planing (also called a deep cleaning), followed by periodontal maintenance (a type of cleaning designed for patients with gum disease) every 3, 4, or 6 months.
Gum disease has serious consequences, but you can prevent or minimize them by recognizing the symptoms and getting professional care. This type of intervention is the best way to make sure your smile stays healthy for as long as possible!
About the Author
Dr. Filip Orban is a general, cosmetic and restorative dentist in Coeur d’Alene who keeps a close eye on his patients’ gum health. He recognizes that he and his patients work as a team to maintain their oral health, so he always educates people on the early signs and symptoms of gum disease. If you have any other questions, he can be reached via his website or at (208) 667-1546.