Stages of Gum Disease

What Is Gum Disease?

Gum disease develops when the bacteria found in plaque begins to build up around the teeth and gums. This build up causes the gums to become red and inflamed. If the plaque is not removed with daily brushing and flossing, the bacteria can damage not only your gums and teeth, as well as the supporting bone. This can lead to teeth becoming loose, falling out, or eventually requiring extraction by a professional.

Healthy Gums

Normal, healthy gum tissue appear a coral pink color. In addition, healthy gum tissue securely and tightly hug the teeth. While brushing, flossing or eating certain foods, the gums will remain pink and firm, without any bleeding or swelling.  

Gingivitis

Gingivitis is the very early stage of gum disease. During this stage, the gums and surrounding tissue are inflamed and sensitive. Although the gums are irritated during this stage, the teeth are still firmly stable in their sockets. The damage caused by gingivitis can also be reversed with proper oral hygiene maintenance and regular dental checkups. Common symptoms of gingivitis include:

  • Bleeding while brushing or during probing
  • Possible bad breath and/or bad taste in mouth

Mild Periodontitis

Mild periodontitis is a slightly more severe form of gingivitis. During this phase, there is more pronounced gingival bleeding and swelling. The gum tissue may begin to pull away from the teeth, forming small pockets. Pockets collect any food particles and debris which can cause infections. Symptoms of mild periodontitis include:

  • Bad breath and/or bad taste in mouth
  • Pockets measure 3-4 millimeters deep

Moderate Periodontitis

When gingivitis is left untreated, it can progress to moderate periodontitis. During this stage of gum disease, the gum layer attached to the teeth begin to pull away forming slightly deeper  pockets, which can cause moderate bone loss. The pockets can measure between 4-6 millimeters deep and teeth tend to look longer due to gum recession. Other symptoms include:

  • Gum boils or abscesses may develop
  • Possible bad breath and/or bad taste in mouth
  • Teeth may begin to drift and show spaces

Advanced Periodontitis

Advanced periodontitis is the most severe stage of gum disease. The pocket size is now 6 millimeters or deeper and there is severe bone loss. Due to the enlarged pocket depth and bone loss, teeth may become loose or mobile. This will affect the bite alignment and, if treatment is not effective, teeth may have to be extracted. Other symptoms of advanced periodontitis include:

  • Constant bad breath and/or bad taste in mouth
  • Teeth sensitivity due to exposed roots

Treatment For Gum Disease

The early stages of gum disease can often be treated and reversed by practicing proper brushing and flossing techniques. Maintaining proper oral hygiene will help prevent any future plaque build up. The only effective way to remove tartar (plaque that has built up and hardened)  is with a professional dental cleaning. For more severe cases of gum disease, such as advanced periodontitis, scaling and root planing is recommended to effectively remove the plaque and tartar that has grown below the gumline. Scaling helps remove the plaque above and below the gumline, while root planning is performed to smooth any irregularities on the teeth roots.