Understanding the Different Stages of Gum Disease

Did you know that gum disease affects more than half of all people over the age of 30? As prevalent as this disease is, many people still remain undiagnosed. Typical symptoms of patients with gum disease include red, swollen, and puffy gums that feel tender to the touch. If left untreated, the disease can progress and result in loss of connective tissue, gum recession, and even tooth loss. Pus can also develop in the pockets between the teeth and gums as the body attempts to fight the infection. Not surprisingly, this creates a permanent bad taste in the mouth, and sufferers will also have bad breath. Not only does gum disease wreak havoc in your mouth, studies have also shown that is linked to serious conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and even impotence.

Here is how gum disease progresses:

Healthy Gums: A healthy mouth with no signs of gum disease will have firm, pink gum tissue that doesn’t bleed during normal brushing or flossing. During your regular dental checkup, gum disease is diagnosed by measuring the depth of your gum pockets, checking for bleeding sites, and assessing bone loss through x-rays. Healthy patients have pocket depths between 1 – 3 mm with no loss of connective tissue or bone structure. Their gum tissue fits tightly around the tooth and there is no sign of any plaque buildup or calculus.

Gingivitis: The first stage of gum disease is gingivitis. In most cases, it is caused by a long-term buildup of plaque around the gum line which inflames the tissues, as the toxins produced by the plaque bacteria cause the gums to become slightly swollen and infected. First symptoms that you may experience include red and puffy gums which bleed when brushed or flossed2. Gingivitis is generally caused by a poor oral hygiene routine, and if caught at this stage is often reversible. As yet, there has been no extensive damage to the connective tissue and bone which hold the teeth in place.

Periodontitis: The next stage of gum disease is periodontitis and evolves from untreated gingivitis. During a regular dental cleaning, your hygienist will use a scaler to scrape away calculus on the tooth. However, studies have shown that up to 63% of calculus can remain on the tooth despite aggressive mechanical cleaning. This is especially the case when the calculus resides beneath the gum line. When harmful bacteria are left in the mouth, an inflammatory response occurs which can cause the body to begin breaking down the connective tissue and bone supporting the teeth. Visible symptoms of periodontitis include red, swollen gums that bleed easily when brushed or flossed, and the patient usually has deeper pockets of 4+mm.

Advanced Periodontitis: Periodontitis frequently develops into a chronic condition. If the disease continues to be left untreated, there is a high risk the tooth will loosen due to destruction of bone support. Patients with advanced periodontitis experience severe loss of connective tissue and deep pockets. They also bleed heavily when flossing or brushing.

Periodontal disease is definitely one condition where prevention is better than cure, as surgery for advanced periodontitis can be costly and painful. The best way to prevent gum disease is by maintaining oral health through regular checkups and cleanings. If periodontitis is present, then it can be treated through regular professional teeth cleanings in addition to Periowave. This can help reduce inflammation of the gum tissues, destroy the harmful bacteria left behind after cleaning, and return the patient to better oral health. Maintaining a healthy mouth free of periodontal disease should be part of maintaining general good health, as this disease is linked with common systemic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

  1. Colgate Oral and Dental Health Resource Center http://www.colgate.com/app/CP/US/EN/OC/Information/Articles/Oral-and-Dental-Health-Basics/Common-Concerns/Gum-Disease/article/What-are-the-Stages-of-Gum-Disease.cvsp
  2. American Academy of Periodontology  http://www.perio.org/consumer/2a.html
  3. Robertson. J Perio 61:22-23
  4. PubMed Health http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002051/
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3 Responses to “Understanding the Different Stages of Gum Disease”

  1. carol says:

    how much does it cost for this treatment as i have peridonital disease and i have had 3 teeth done with cement for them to stay together but i have been told by my dentist that i will lose my teeth eventually can this treatment work for me x carol

  2. I wish there was a better way for people at home to detect the disease. These pictures are great ways of showing them exactly what happens. Maybe it will be a good motivation to see their dentist more often to prevent needed dental implants!

  3. Great article and pics with the perio probe explaining different stages of gum disease.

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