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Identifying and Treating the Stages of Gum Disease

Craig Goldin DDS Aug 2, 2018

Four-panel illustration of stages of gum diseaseThe National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research reports that periodontal disease is the leading cause of adult tooth loss. This condition, though rarely painful, can wreak havoc on your oral and overall health if left untreated.

Here, our team at the Cosmetic Dentistry Institute in Troy, MI discusses the stages of gum disease and explores common causes and treatments in periodontal care.

The First Stage: Gingivitis

Plaque accumulates on the surfaces of the teeth every day. If this irritant is not routinely removed, it can cause the gum tissue to become inflamed and irritated. This condition, known as gingivitis, is indicated by red, puffy, tender, or bleeding gums.

Treating Gingivitis

When the gums are bleeding, the first instinct may be to leave them alone. On the contrary, bleeding gums should be brushed and flossed, as this is the only way to remove the plaque and biofilm causing the issue.

In addition, a professional cleaning with your hygienist can help remove tartar and other irritants in hard-to-reach areas. Gum disease is actually reversible when diagnosed at this stage, as no bone loss has occurred.

The Second Stage: Periodontitis

Left untreated, gingivitis will continue to worsen. The bacteria that were previously along the gum line have now seeped below the gums, where infection begins to develop.

This infection erodes the supporting jawbone, creating pockets around the roots of the teeth. Further plaque, tartar, and debris become trapped in these pockets, exacerbating the problem.

Symptoms include bad breath, receding gums, tooth mobility, and more.

Treating Periodontitis

Because these deep pockets cannot be reached with a toothbrush and floss, professional intervention is required. Fortunately, mild to moderate periodontitis can often be treated with non-surgical methods.

Scaling and root planing is similar to a regular dental cleaning. However, local anesthesia is administered so the hygienist can clean deep into gums, sweeping away bacteria and debris.

The roots of the teeth are then smoothed out to discourage further buildup from accumulating. Following treatment, you will need to maintain your progress with regular dental cleanings, at intervals determined by your dentist.

The Third Stage: Advanced Periodontitis

If periodontitis is left untreated, the condition will continue to worsen, and the pockets around the teeth will become deeper. At this point, symptoms will progress, and tooth loss may occur. Some patients begin to develop pain or tenderness in this advanced stage.

Treating Advanced Periodontitis

Individuals with advanced periodontitis typically need surgery to address the problem. Gum surgery, also referred to as osseous surgery, involves moving the gums back to access the underlying bone.

Infected tissue is removed and the roots of the teeth are thoroughly debrided. In some cases, bone or tissue grafting may need to be performed to regenerate lost tissue.

Following treatment, patients will need to remain on a cleaning schedule for the rest of their lives. In fact, many periodontal patients require regular dental cleanings every three to four months to keep harmful bacteria levels at bay.

Early Detection is Key

The longer gum disease goes undetected, the more significant damage it causes. If diagnosed in the first stage, the condition can be completely reversed. Unfortunately, once bone loss occurs, the tissue does not regenerate on its own. Therefore, the treatments necessary to remedy the problem can become extensive and costly.

Schedule a Consultation Today

Are you experiencing symptoms of gum disease, such as red, swollen, or tender gums? If so, do not wait until the warning signs become irreversible. To schedule a consultation at our practice, contact us online or call us at (248) 519-1919.

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