Unlike many diseases, gum disease is incredibly common and can be painless, so sometimes people don’t even know they have it. What exactly is gum disease? Gum disease happens when plaque and tartar begin building up on the surface of teeth, which then irritates the surrounding gum tissue and causes them to become inflamed. While healthy gums fit tightly around the teeth, diseased gums cause pockets to form and eventually begin detaching from the teeth. This can have a negative effect on supporting bones in the mouth and can even lead to tooth loss.
Gum disease has three different stages that range in levels of severity. For the rest of this blog, let’s discuss the three different stages of gum disease, their symptoms, causes, and treatment options.
Gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease, is the most common type and although it’s mild, it should be taken seriously. Gingivitis occurs when plaque—a sticky film of bacteria that form around the teeth—begins to build up and causes the gums to become red or swollen. Although harder to detect, one sign of gingivitis is bleeding when brushing or flossing.
The good news about gingivitis is that not only can it be prevented, it can also be reversed. Gingivitis can be avoided altogether by practicing good dental hygiene. Brushing your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes each time and flossing every day will help ensure that plaque does not build up around your teeth and will help keep your gums healthy. Because gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease and hasn’t yet affected the bone around the teeth, with diligent brushing and flossing and a good cleaning from your dentist, gingivitis can be reversed. Once plaque has hardened into tartar, no amount of brushing or flossing will remove it. However, dentists have special instruments they use to scrape away the tartar. By visiting your dentist twice a year for a cleaning and checkup, you can treat gingivitis before it becomes more serious.
The second stage of gum disease is called periodontitis and if not treated can damage the bone around the teeth. Periodontitis occurs when plaque buildup around the teeth causes inflammation in the gums. If left untreated, the bones, gums, and tissue that support the teeth are destroyed. To treat periodontitis, your dentist may recommend a deep cleaning, also known as scaling and root planning. During the scaling process, the hygienist scrapes off the tartar from above and below the gum line. Then, root planning will remove the rough spots on the tooth root where germs gather.
Treating periodontitis is crucial to avoid the final stage of gum disease. This phase is called advanced periodontitis and it means that the gums, bones, or other tissue that support the teeth are damaged. Symptoms of advanced periodontitis include bad breath, a bad taste in the mouth, and severe pain. Unfortunately, the only way to treat this kind of gum disease is by undergoing a procedure called gingival flap surgery. This surgery is performed by a periodontist and will help reduce periodontal pockets and restore the supporting bones in the mouth.
While common and sometimes painless, gum disease should always be taken seriously. In addition to brushing and flossing your teeth regularly, visiting your dentist on a regular basis is your greatest defense against any kind of gum disease. We hope you’ll make an appointment with us today at Cornerstone Family Dentistry so we can give you the beautiful and healthy mouth you deserve!