Inflammation and disease in the gums is caused by bacterial infection of the gingiva (the medical term for the gums). If left untreated, gum disease can progress to infect tooth-supporting bone and other support structures of the teeth.
Gum disease progresses through three stages of infection. Here are descriptions of the three stages of gum disease, how they're treated by your dentist, and how you can reduce your chances of developing serious gum problems.
1. Early-Stage, or Gingivitis
If you don't brush or floss your teeth routinely, a sticky substance called plaque forms on your teeth. Plaque is loaded with bacteria that live off the dental residue of foods you eat. Those bacteria cause toxins to build up in the plaque and eventually spread over teeth and gums.
When bacterial infection spreads to the gums, the gums become swollen, red, and sensitive. Your gums may also be painful or bleed during tooth-brushing and when eating certain foods.
Early-stage gum disease is treated with a thorough dental cleaning of the teeth. In all stages of gum disease, your dentist may also prescribe antibiotics and special mouthwashes.
After your dental cleaning, you can stop gingivitis in its tracks by brushing and flossing at least twice a day. Use an electric toothbrush if your gums are sensitive or painful. You can also maintain healthy gums by avoiding the sugary and starchy foods and beverages that can increase plaque and bacteria formation.
Another important thing to consider is that smoking increases your risk of developing gum disease, and tobacco use can hinder recovery from gum disease treatment. Quit smoking now to reduce the chances of gingivitis advancing to more serious gum disease.
2. Intermediate-Stage, or Periodontitis
As gum disease advances, gum tissue begins to pull away from the teeth. Open gaps or pockets can develop between the gums and the teeth, and those gaps trap more plaque and food debris.
Other signs of periodontics may include the following:
- Puffy red gums
- Bleeding of gums
- Poor tooth alignment
- Mouth sores
- Pain when chewing
- Bad breath
- Unpleasant taste in mouth
Once a patient reaches the intermediate stage of gum disease, the supporting tissues of the teeth are harmed for good. However, your dentist can still perform non-surgical treatment to treat periodontitis.
Cleaning procedures known as tooth scaling and root planing are often used to get under the gumline and clean away attached plaque and tartar. Tooth scaling involves deep cleaning and smoothing of the tooth surface. Root planing then evens out the surface irregularities in roots so plaque has a tougher time being deposited near the roots of teeth.
Surgical treatments for periodontitis include removing pockets around the teeth and gum line. Excess gum tissue can also be surgically removed to expose more of the teeth.
As with early-stage gum disease, proper brushing and flossing every day will improve your dental health. You can't reverse some periodontitis issues, but good oral hygiene habits and your dentist's care can stop further degradation of your gums and underlying, tooth-supporting bones.
3. Late-Stage, or Advanced Periodontitis
In the final stage of gum disease, gums may recede to the roots of the teeth and affected teeth may become wobbly or loose in the mouth. The fibers that hold the teeth in place weaken and no longer support the teeth, and you may have permanent and severe loss of tooth-supporting bone.
Treatment for late-stage periodontitis is sometimes possible. Soft-tissue grafts can be used to replace lost gum tissue, and bone grafts can fortify degraded bone.
But when the effects of advanced periodontics are beyond repair, the affected teeth may need to be pulled. Your dentist can replace the missing teeth with implants, bridges, or dentures to restore your smile and your chewing ability.
If your gums bleed when you brush or show other signs of gum disease, schedule a complete dental examination by contacting University Dental P.A. today. We offer periodontal treatments, including tooth scaling and root planing for dental patients throughout the Greater Columbia, South Carolina region.