The Four Stages of Gum Disease

Gum disease can be sneaky

According to the CDC, gum disease affects almost half of the American population aged 30 and above. The funny thing is that many people who suffer from gum disease do not even know it. This is what makes the disease so ‘successful’.

By learning about gum disease, we can keep our gums healthy and, hopefully, we can give the CDC some more positive statistics.

About gum disease

Gum disease is basically an infection caused by the harmful bacteria that live in the mouth. The human mouth hosts its own ecosystem, which includes beneficial and harmful bacteria. The harmful bacteria combine with sugars to form a coating on the teeth and the edges of the gum.

The coating is known as plaque and, if it is left to accumulate, bacteria will use it to stage attacks on the gums. The resulting infection is known as gum disease. There are multiple factors that can contribute to gum disease:

  • Poor oral hygiene allows plaque to accumulate on the teeth
  • A dry mouth allows bacteria to thrive. Dry mouth in itself is caused by factors like medication and breathing issues
  • Crowded or crooked teeth that are hard to clean can easily accumulate plaque
  • Hormonal shifts in women make them more vulnerable to gum disease
  • A diet that is rich in carbohydrates and low in vitamins can lead to gum disease
  • Smoking increases the risk of gum disease

The stages of gum disease

Like most diseases, gum disease usually starts off as a mild infection that is almost impossible to detect. With time, the disease advances and makes its presence known. Here are the various stages of gum disease:

Stage 1: Gingivitis

During this stage, plaque that is left to accumulate at the base of the teeth makes its way into the gum pockets. The bacteria in the plaque starts to infect the gum. At this stage, only mild symptoms will be observed. The symptoms are:

  • Occasional bad breath
  • Bleeding when flossing
  • Slight swelling of the gums and deepening gum pockets

These symptoms are hard to detect unless a person is really vigilant. In fact, a dentist is a person’s best bet when trying to catch gum disease in its early stages.

Gingivitis is easily cured. All a person has to do is improve their dental hygiene and their diet.

Stages 2 and 3: Early stage and moderate periodontal disease

This is when gum disease becomes more noticeable. As the infection goes deeper into the gum, it starts to destroy the soft tissue and the bone that supports the teeth. Here are the symptoms that a person should expect at this stage:

  • The gums will bleed during brushing and flossing
  • A person’s bad breath will get even worse
  • The pockets in the gums will be as deep as 7mm
  • The gums will be red, swollen and squishy

To top it all off, the bacteria will find their way into the bloodstream, where they will put a strain on the patient’s immune system.

At this point, the person will not be able to rid themselves of gum disease by improving their oral habits. A dentist or periodontist will have to intervene. They will treat the disease by removing plaque, bacteria and infected tissue in a procedure known as scaling and root planing.

It is interesting to note that the person may feel little or no pain at this stage of the disease.

Stage 4: Advanced periodontal disease

The infection continues to destroy the gums and jawbones. Meanwhile, the patient’s immune system is put under more stress as the infection continues to enter the bloodstream.

The patient will have loose, gapped teeth, bad breath and damaged gums that ooze. The gums will recede from the teeth and have deep pockets. Whenever the patient chews, they will feel pain as their loose teeth wobble.

At this point, a periodontist will treat the patient by removing the infection with surgery or laser therapy. The patient will also have to take medication to fight the systemic infection.

Keep gum disease at bay with regular checkups

Gum disease only starts to cause discomfort when it becomes serious, it is sneaky like that. That is why you need to get a trained pair of eyes to keep an eye on your gums.

What is the last time you got a routine dental checkup? Set one up today.

Let’s get started…

Request an appointment here: or call Eastside Dental at (414) 888-4000 for an appointment in our Milwaukee office.

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