Gum disease, also known as periodontitis, is a very common occurrence in people who don’t properly care for their teeth. When you don’t regularly brush – which is defined as at least twice per day – and don’t floss daily, bacterial plaque can build up within the mouth.
This plaque typically forms in areas that are hard to clean, such as along the gum line and between the teeth. Over time, this bacterial plaque can cause inflammation and damage to the gum tissue. Eventually, the gums pull away from the tooth, allowing gaps or “pockets” to form.
Additional plaque – along with tartar, pus, and food debris — can then fill these gaps, accelerating the development of periodontitis. Generally, people won’t feel this developing because it tends to be painless, but this buildup can eat away at the bone support anchoring the teeth. Eventually, the teeth will fall out.
The development of gum disease takes time. Here are the different stages of gum disease as they develop:
Stage 1 – Healthy Gums
When your gums are healthy, there is a firm pink collar of the gum tissue over a firm bone that forms a perfect seal. This forms healthy, attractive and strong support for the teeth.
Incidentally, gum disease isn’t something that only happens to people with crooked teeth. It can develop in people with perfectly straight teeth as well, especially if they are lax in their oral health habits.
Stage 2 – Gingivitis
Gingivitis occurs when bacterial plaque starts to build up along the gum line. Over time, this causes an inflammation of the gums, in which gum tissue will redden and become puffy. Bleeding from the gums also can occur during this stage.
Gingivitis can also be a cause of halitosis or bad breath. Bacterial buildup along the gum line, along with rotting bits of food, can cause an unpleasant odor that can’t always be detected by the host but is often obvious to other people.
Stage 3 – Early Periodontitis
If left untreated, gingivitis can easily morph into the early stages of periodontitis. This is caused by the continued inflammation of the gums. Eventually, the gums will begin pulling away from the teeth, which is what causes the pockets to form that can be filled with additional bacteria, food, pus, etc.
These harmful particles can erode the bone socket supporting the teeth, but most people don’t realize it is happening because there are no pain symptoms.
During early periodontitis, halitosis can worsen.
Stage 4 – Moderate Periodontitis
As the infection spreads, the bone support of the tooth continues until it is no longer strong enough to support the tooth. At this stage, teeth can fall out, become loose, or can begin to obviously recede into the gums themselves.
This stage is when many people finally begin to discover that they have been suffering from periodontitis. Unfortunately, due to the advanced state of the disease, it’s often too late to save affected teeth.
Stage 5 – Advanced Periodontitis
Advanced gum disease is recognized as one of the leading causes of tooth loss in adults. It is characterized by painful gum abscesses that are caused by the infection deepening and becoming trapped under the gum.
The result is often a buildup of painful pressure which drives many sufferers to seek help from their dental professional. Sadly, by this point, it’s often too late. Typically, teeth fall out or may need to be extracted.
Treatments for Periodontitis
Antibiotics are sometimes used to treat the bacterial infection if it’s caught early enough. But because there typically aren’t any obvious symptoms, periodontitis often isn’t detected until it has eroded much of bone anchor for the tooth.
Plus, deposits of plaque, tartar, food debris and pus can remain stuck under the gum after the antibiotics have run their course, so the bacterial infection can simply flare up again.
Non-surgical periodontal therapy is an effective and natural way to control infection. It consists of educating patients on proper daily personal oral hygiene techniques, such as brushing at least twice daily and flossing at least once per day.
Regular examinations by a dentist are another way of helping catch periodontitis before it can cause serious damage to the teeth and gums. You should have a regular checkup at least twice per year and visit your dentist whenever you experience pain, bleeding from the gums or other symptoms that might indicate gum disease.
Having your teeth cleaned professionally by a dental hygienist is another way of preventing gum disease.
If you want to make sure you don’t ever develop the painful, embarrassing conditions associated with gum disease, and to save your natural teeth for as long as possible, make sure you brush twice daily, floss regularly, and see your right dentist according to a regular dental schedule.