The Stages of Gum Disease : Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment

A lapse in routine dental care or maintenance of oral hygiene can potentially lead to oral health issues like gingivitis- a gum infection and periodontitis- a gum disease. If you have such dental problems or are not sure that you are experiencing them, continue reading this article to know everything about the stages of gum disease and how you can prevent gum disease.  

What is Gum Disease?

Gum disease, medically known as periodontitis, is a concern of general dentistry. It occurs when the overgrowth of mouth bacteria and plaque build-up on the teeth and gum line causes gums inflammation (gingivitis) which is left untreated. In simple terms, it can be said that gum disease is caused by the gradual progress of untreated gum infection. It is a serious condition as it could lead to receding gums and tooth loss and the bacteria causing the disease could enter the bloodstream and infect other organs of the body.  

What is Gum Disease

What Causes Gum Disease? 

Although the primary cause of gum disease is a gum infection, there may be various other factors that can put one at risk of developing gingivitis and eventually gum disease. These causative factors include:

  • Certain medications- Prolonged intake of medications for the treatment of certain illnesses or conditions can suppress immune system activity and make it more challenging for people to resist infections.
  • Some illnesses- Diabetic individuals or cancer patients are not able to fight off infections like gingivitis easily.
  • Poor oral hygiene- Those who are unable to daily follow good oral hygiene practices could have their mouth turned into a happy place for bacteria to flourish. As a result, gingivitis and eventually periodontitis could develop.
  • Smoking- People who chew tobacco or smoke cigarettes face difficulty in heal of their gums and also keeping infections at bay. 
  • Family history of gum disease- If one’s blood relatives suffer from gum infection or disease, then it’s likely for one to experience the same.    

What are the Symptoms of Gum Disease?

The signs/symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Swollen and tender gums
  • Foul-smelling breath
  • Gums that easily bleed while brushing
  • Receding gums and exposure to more tooth structure
  • Pain or discomfort felt while chewing
  • Pus formation at the gumline. 

If you are experiencing any of these above-mentioned symptoms, check in with your dentist soon so you can treat the disease as quickly as possible. By paying attention to these symptoms, you can avert gum infection before the condition worsens to develop gum disease.

Symptoms of Gum Disease

What are the Stages of Gum Disease and How Can they be Treated?

 To get the best treatment, it’s important to be aware of what stage of gum disease the patient is in. Dentists have broken down the progression of gum disease into four categories:

Gingivitis- This is the earliest stage of gum disease, where patients experience symptoms like red and inflamed gums, painful gums, and blood coming from the gums while brushing that show up as pink stains on the toothbrush. At this stage, the gums feel a little more sensitive than normal. The patients can reverse the damage caused to their gums and teeth with daily twice brushing, one-time flossing, use of mouthwash, and visiting dentists for check-ups and a thorough mouth cleaning (if the symptoms show up). The oral hygiene routine practices when properly done can ensure that the teeth and gums are kept clean.

Stage 1- This is the second stage of gum disease which turns out to be more aggressive because of the continued build-up of the bacteria inside the mouth. It is manageable by a dentist who performs professional teeth cleaning, however, the damage already done to the teeth and gums by the disease cannot be completely reversed. The symptoms that indicate the need for professional teeth cleaning include increased gums inflammation, bleeding gums after brushing or flossing, and bad-smelling breath.

Stage 2- This is the third stage of gum disease where the gums start to recede and pockets for bacteria to reside in are created which are likely to increase in size over time. The gum pockets provide more room for bacteria to multiply and cause damage. It is an irreversible stage where the patient needs to immediately visit the dentist and not just undergo professional teeth cleaning.

For patients with moderate periodontal disease, their dentists will likely perform deep professional teeth cleaning that involves scaling and planing. These deep-cleaning techniques focus on the elimination of the dental plaque or tartar that builds up in the pockets formed underneath the gum line and between the teeth and the gums. They are performed under local anesthesia. After scraping the plaque or tartar, the dentist smoothens the tooth surface for gums to eventually attach back to a clean, smooth tooth surface.  

 The symptoms of this stage include loosening of the teeth, which can cause a change in bite and painful chewing; very sensitive teeth and gums; more bleeding of gums.     

Stage 3- This is the most severe and last stage of gum disease where the patient starts to experience jawbone resorption and tooth loss because of the spread of the bacterial infection. In such cases, the patient is at greater risk of having the infection spread to other body parts. At this stage, the patients start to notice symptoms like continued inflammation of the gums and pus formation; highly sensitive gums and teeth, making it painful and difficult to chew food; severe bad-smelling breath.

Patients who fall under this category are treated by dentists who perform pocket reduction surgery under anesthesia. After this is done, the gums closely attach to the cleaned and smoothed tooth surfaces.

 However, if this last stage is also not treated, advanced periodontal disease leads to tooth loss which causes gaps to be formed in the smile which when left untreated can cause additional bone loss. To replace the missing tooth/teeth and fill in the spaces created in the smile, the patient needs to be fitted with dental restorations like dentures and dental implants.

Stages of Gum Disease

Best Preventive Strategies for Gum Disease

By following these can help you prevent gum disease: 

  • Practise good oral hygiene- Everyone is recommended by dentists to brush their teeth twice daily with proper brushing techniques and a good toothbrush. Brushing must be done on the teeth and in spaces between the teeth as well as the tongue using fluoride toothpaste. Also, daily one-time flossing between the teeth is recommended after meals. Brushing and flossing help in the removal of food particles and any lingering dental plaque that may turn into tartar-harder plaque that can only be removed by dentists. Other than brushing and flossing, it’s also recommended to use alcohol-free, fluoridated mouthwash for the removal of any food particles left behind.
  • Quit or limit smoking/tobacco use: This is important to avoid delayed gum healing and weakening of the immune system which could easily allow symptoms of gingivitis and periodontitis to develop and the smoker’s body will find it harder to stop infection. 
  •  Have a well-balanced diet: The intake of foods and drinks loaded with sugars and carbs should be limited or avoided as bacteria likes to feed on them. Instead, one must opt for a diet that includes lean proteins and fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Be consistent with regular dental visits: It is necessary to visit a dentist at least twice a year for dental check-ups and professional teeth cleaning if having symptoms of gingivitis or has had treatment for the periodontal disease but doesn’t want it to return in the future. If the patient is experiencing gingivitis, a dentist can help resolve its symptoms and help the patient get back on track to good oral hygiene. However, if the patient has advanced periodontal disease, speaking with a dentist can help the patient deal with gum disease with a customized solution. 


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