Periodontal (Gum) disease is an irritation and inflammation of the part of your gum around the base of your teeth. The infection can progress over time and cause severe damages to the soft tissue and bone that supports your teeth, when it’s left untreated. At the start, the infection causes pockets to develop between your gums and teeth.
As more days passes, these pockets tend to become deeper, filling with harmful bacteria. If not treated on time, the infection can cause loss of tissue and bone, and ultimately you may lose one or more teeth.
Moreover, periodontal disease is most commonly caused by plaque – a thick film of bacteria forming on gums and teeth that daily brushing and flossing removes. Fortunately, the earliest stage of the disease can still be reversed and treated with consistent, efficient oral hygiene routine that consists of brushing and flossing at least twice every day. When it comes to treating gum disease, early detection and treatments is necessary as it will help you reverse the damage before it becomes more severe.
In addition, according to studies, researchers have reported that bacteria present in infected gums can become loose and move throughout the body through the bloodstream. It is believed that once these bacteria continues to leak into the bloodstream, that they may lead to more serious health problems such as heart disease, respiratory disease, rheumatoid arthritis, coronary artery disease and stroke.
Periodontal Disease Stages
There are four main stages of periodontal disease, I will explain more on each of the stages using pictures. But first, let’s see how a healthy gum looks like.
As you can see in the image above, a healthy gums is supposed to be firm, pink and strongly attached to the teeth. It is also supported by firm dense bone. Now, here are periodontal disease stages:
Gum disease usually starts as an inflammation of the gums caused by plaque buildup at the gumline. Inflammation, frequent bleeding and redness of the surrounding gums are the common observable signs of gingivitis. You may start to notice frequent gums bleeding during or after tooth brushing and flossing. Luckily, the damages in this particular stage in gum disease can be reversed, since the bone and connective tissue that hold the teeth in place are not yet affected. (1)
2. Early Periodontitis
At this stage, the gums become more inflamed, they start to pull away from the teeth, forming spaces or pockets between the gums and teeth. As more time passes, food particles, bacteria, and plaque begin to collect in the pockets, the toxins (poisons) produced from there irritates the gum tissue leading to infection and damages to the surrounding bone. At this point, further damages can be prevented by proper dental treatment and improved oral hygiene.
3. Moderate Periodontitis
At this stage, the gums continues to deteriorate and detach themselves from the teeth forming deeper gum pockets, which allows more plaque, bacteria and food particles to collect deep below the gum line. This makes the roots of the teeth to become susceptible to decay, most patients develop tooth decay here. The roots of the tooth are exposed, causing severe tooth pain and extreme sensitivity to hot and cold and to touch. More supporting bone and tissues are lost, the teeth will loosen.
4. Advanced Periodontitis
In the final stage of gum disease, the supporting periodontal ligament, fibers and bone are destroyed. This can affect your bite greatly, you will start to experience severe pain when you bite or chew. Your teeth are loosen, they may even fall out on their own. Advanced periodontal disease is among the major cause of tooth loss in in adults. It results to painful abscesses, infection on the other hand starts to spread beneath the gums. At this point, the bacteria responsible for periodontitis can enter the bloodstream through gum tissue, possibly affecting the heart, lungs and other vital organs in the body.
Anybody can have gum disease, the disease can occur at any age, but it is commonly seen in older adults. Early detection of the disease is very important as flossing and other effective treatment are vital to remove bacteria and food debris from between teeth to avoid the infection that come with gum disease in its later stage. Gum disease can be reversed in its early stage, this is why you should visit your dentist immediately if you notice any sign of the disease. The earliest signs of gum disease includes swollen, red gums, gums bleeding and sometimes persistent bad breath.
In mild cases, a professional treatment and cleaning by your dentist can help to reverse or prevent further damages. If it turns out that your condition is more severe, a root planing procedure may be performed to smoothen some irregularities on the roots.