Gum disease is caused by the bacteria in plaque. While good oral hygiene helps prevent gum disease from developing, it is still important to know the four stages of gum disease: gingivitis, mild periodontitis, moderate periodontitis, and severe periodontitis.

Patients with gingivitis may experience red, tender, swollen gums that bleed easily. However, at this stage of gum disease, it’s entirely possible that a patient doesn’t even know that they have gingivitis. Fortunately, once it is diagnosed, gingivitis can be managed with professional cleanings and improved oral hygiene. In some cases, gingivitis is reversible. If gingivitis isn’t managed properly, it may develop into mild periodontitis. Another telltale sign of gum disease is bad breath. There is a truly distinct odor that is caused by the buildup of bacteria in the mouth.

Mild periodontitis begins when plaque gets below the gum line. The bacteria in plaque produce toxins that break down the gums and bone. At this stage, gums start separating from teeth and forming periodontal pockets, which can become infected. Mild periodontitis is controllable with scaling and root planing.

If mild periodontitis isn’t treated, it may progress to moderate periodontitis. Gums separate further from the teeth and periodontal pockets increase and deepen. A patient’s teeth may become loose, eventually needing to be removed. Hopefully, by this stage the patient and their dentist are actively involved in treating and managing the existing gum disease. If the gum disease is unable to be treated or reversed, the next stage is advanced periodontitis.

Advanced periodontitis is the worst stage. Those periodontal pockets get looser, the gums recede, and teeth loosen more. A patient whose gum disease has progressed to this point may need their teeth removed and replaced as well as surgery to restore gums.

It is important to visit your dentist regularly as gum disease is the most manageable in the earliest stages and not everyone has the bleeding painful gums of gingivitis. Also, be sure to pay attention to how your gums look when you follow your daily brushing routine. If you see any major changes, it is time to schedule an appointment. Once gum disease progresses to the point where it is destroying bone and gum, it’s often too late to reverse its effects. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call us here at Huntingdon Valley Dental Arts. Dr. Makrauer and Dr. Miller will guide you in your care and offer treatment that will get this condition under control for you.