The Stages of Gum Disease

The Stages of Gum Disease

At some point during your life, there’s a good chance you’ll suffer from gum disease. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of all American adults aged 30 or older have gum disease, while a whopping 70.1% of adults 65 years and older suffer from the condition.

It’s so common that you may be tempted to assume it’s no big deal. Don’t be fooled, warns our own Nate Gunning, DDS here at Signature Smiles Dentistry. Gum disease is an infection that can have serious dental and medical implications.

What is gum disease?

Knowing how the condition plays out is an important part of keeping it in check. But before we talk about the stages of gum disease, let’s take a step back and explain what gum disease is and why it’s important to prevent it.

Gum disease, sometimes called periodontal 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.

3 stages occur over time

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

Stage 1: Gingivitis

Gingivitis is probably the stage that’s most familiar to you. In this stage, plaque starts building up on your teeth, and you may notice some gum tenderness and inflammation. For most people, the telltale sign is bleeding when you brush your teeth. During this stage, gum disease not only can be stopped from progressing further, but also 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 not only removes the plaque and tartar buildup, but also discourages future occurrences by smoothing out parts of the tooth root surfaces.  

Stage 3: Advanced periodontitis

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

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 the thought of 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, as well as 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 for a lifetime.  

If you think you may have gum disease, make an appointment with Nate Gunning, DDS and the experienced dental team at Signature Smiles Dentistry in Parker, Colorado. We’ll do a thorough dental examination, so we can find out what’s going on, and treat accordingly. To book an appointment, call us at 720-738-3832, or request an appointment online.

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