Periodontal disease, a.k.a. gum disease, progresses in stages if left untreated. These stages are: (1) healthy gums, (2) gingivitis, (3) periodontitis, and (4) advanced periodontitis. Read on to learn how to recognize the incremental onset of the disease.
The hallmark of healthy gums is firm, light pink gum tissue. The gums, connective tissue, and bone hold the teeth securely in place. Healthy gums are not sensitive to hot or cold. Also, brushing and flossing should not cause the gums to bleed. Finally, healthy gums lack plaque or tartar (calcified plaque) buildup.
“Gingivitis” means inflammation of the gingiva (gums). During this early stage of periodontal disease, the bacteria in plaque causes the gums to appear red and swollen, and feel tender to the touch. You may notice heightened sensitivity to hot and cold substances. Also, the gums likely bleed when flossing or brushing.
If caught and treated early enough, periodontal disease is usually reversible at this stage. This is why it is important to keep regular oral checkups and maintain a habit of oral hygiene at home.
Left untreated, plaque and tartar will build up at the gum line and between the teeth crevices. The bacteria will inflame the tissue and cause the gum to separate from the bone, creating bacterial “pockets.”
Bacteria piles up in these pockets, damaging the bone and teeth. Eventually, the teeth will become loose, increasing the danger that the teeth will fall out after a time. If this describes you, you should consult a periodontist as soon as possible to activate a treatment plan. Scaling and root planing may be performed at this stage to thoroughly eradicate bacterial pockets.
At this stage, the bacteria has ravaged the gum tissue, causing extreme recession. The teeth are typically quite mobile at this juncture, and they may fall out or need to be removed. You should consult with your periodontist to swiftly develop a treatment plan, which may involve implant placement or other periodontal surgeries.
Periodontal disease sounds scary, and if left untreated, it certainly can be. But the reality is that periodontal disease itself is not a death sentence. By staying proactive and seeking requisite treatment, individuals with periodontal disease can improve their oral health, despite gum disease.
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