There are lots of different problems that can potentially compromise our oral health. One of the most common is gum disease which will affect up to 80% of adults at some point during their lifetime. Gum disease is actually just one name to describe this inflammatory condition, which also gets referred to as gingivitis, periodontitis and periodontal disease. In fact, these names are all used to describe different stages of this progressive condition.
Early identification, diagnosis, and treatment are essential if you are to prevent periodontal disease from causing irreversible damage to your gums and oral health. Here’s what you need to know about periodontal disease and the stages in which it occurs.
Periodontal disease is a common oral condition that occurs when the sticky plaque that constantly forms on our teeth as a result of eating and drinking migrates onto the soft tissue of the gum. Here, the bacteria within the plaque causes irritation, inflammation, and soreness. The effects of the bacteria on the gums will get progressively worse until there is significant damage to your teeth, gums and other structures that support the teeth, and even your general health. Below we have explained a little more about what to expect from each stage of the condition.
Gingivitis is often the name used to describe the very earliest stage of gum disease. At this point, the gum disease is reversible and with the right treatment, there will be no lasting damage to your teeth. The symptoms that you may experience at this stage will likely include:
- Bleeding from the gums when you brush your teeth
- Bleeding from your gums when you floss
- Your gums may also bleed if you eat something particularly tough
- Your gums will look red and swollen
- They may also be tender to the touch
A thorough professional dental clean with your hygienist should be sufficient to get control over your gum disease and restore your gums to full health.
By the time it reaches the second stage, many people refer to gum disease as periodontal disease. By this stage, the plaque present on the teeth will also be extending below the gums and causing issues that you can’t visibly see. Gaps (called periodontal pockets) will have started to form between the teeth and gums, creating a gap in which bacteria and food debris can become trapped and exacerbate the condition. At this point, symptoms will include:
- Continued bleeding when brushing, flossing and potentially when eating
- Gums that look very red and swollen
- Sensitive teeth, particularly when eating/drinking something hot/cold/sweet
- Receding gums that are pulling away from the teeth
- Persistent bad breath
- Teeth may appear a little loose
There are treatments that can help to get your gum disease under control, including scaling and root planing which involves removing the bacteria from below the gum line and smoothing the roots of the tooth so that the gum tissue can reattach to it.
The final stage of gum disease, often known as periodontitis, is when there is irreparable damage to your gums and other supporting structures within your mouth. The gums will have receded considerably, causing teeth to come loose or fall out, and the bone in your jaw will have deteriorated, possibly even causing the shape of your face to change. Other symptoms include:
- Pain when biting and chewing
- Severe bad breath
- Oozing gums
- Yellow/brown deposits on the teeth, particularly where they meet the gum
- Significant gum recession
- Obvious abscesses
At this point, the infection will not only have destroyed your oral health, but it could also be putting your general wellbeing at risk. This is because periodontal disease has been linked to several chronic and potentially serious health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, liver disease, kidney failure and more. Your dentist may need to work with a specialist to try and restore the function of your teeth and get your oral health back on track. This could involve a series of treatments, from periodontal pocket cleaning and scaling and root planing to bone or soft tissue grafts and artificial teeth.
With the support of your dentist, it is possible to prevent periodontal disease from having a permanent effect on your oral health. For more information and advice, please speak to our knowledgeable dental team today.