Just as a cold can easily turn into flu and flu can turn into pneumonia, there are stages of gum disease that range from the mildly worrying to the extreme. Many people are inclined to ignore the early stages of gum disease, and if they are not visiting their dentists often enough, the disease progresses unchecked.
Gum disease, like so many of our oral health issues, begins with plaque, the sticky stuff that accumulates on our teeth between brushings. There are plenty of bacteria in plaque, and although they can ad do cause tooth decay, they also cause infection of the gums. Later, that infection spreads to the bone beneath your teeth.
Each stage of gum disease has its own name, and the term we use to describe gum disease depends on the stage to which the disease has progressed. These are, therefore, not separate ailments. Instead, they represent a single ailment that has become progressively worse.
Gingivitis: Stop Gum Disease in its Tracks and Reverse the Damage
Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease, and it is the one we see most often. At this stage, the infection is causing inflammation. People notice that their gums are inclined to bleed after brushing and flossing, and they experience some tenderness, but not a great deal of discomfort.
This is the time when the infection can not only be checked, but the damage reversed. Unfortunately, because gingivitis is so common, a lot of people think they can ignore it, and this leaves them open to progression to the next stage of gum disease.
Periodontitis: Irreversible Damage, but You Can Still Prevent It from Going Further
By the time that gingivitis has progressed to periodontitis there is already damage to the bone and connective tissue that keeps your teeth in place. Meanwhile, the gums may have become so badly infected that they recede and form pockets underneath the teeth.
When you eat, food not only gets trapped between your teeth, but also under them. You can’t remove the plaque that gathers here, so the process begins to accelerate towards the final stage of gum disease. At this point, your dentist can still stop the infection from going further and can halt the progression of gum disease.
Advanced Periodontitis: You May Lose Teeth
If you didn’t think there was much wrong before, you know you’re in deep trouble now. After all, your teeth shouldn’t be loose unless you’re six years old and switching your milk teeth for the permanent set. By now, your teeth have lost their supporting structures and even very intense dental treatment may fail to save them.
What Should You Do If You Think You May Have Gum Disease?
Watch out for these warning signs and see your dentist if you have one or more of them:
- Gums look inflamed and feel tender.
- Gums bleed after brushing or flossing.
- Your teeth seem to keep getting longer (your gums are receding).
- You can see pockets between tooth and gum line.
- You notice a bad taste in your mouth or have bad breath.