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Exploring the Stages of Gum Disease

Danny O'Keefe D.D.S. Dec 2, 2017

Illustration of the stages of gum diseaseLeft untreated, gum disease can wreak havoc on your oral health. Because it is often painless, many patients do not realize they have a problem until the disease has progressed, causing even more serious problems, such as tooth loss. By understanding the symptoms that occur at the different stages of gum disease, you can be mindful of changes in your gum health.

At our dental practice in Jackson, MS, Dr. Danny O’Keefe provides non-surgical periodontal care for the treatment and management of gum disease. Read on to find out how you can identify symptoms and engage in proactive treatment.

Gingivitis: Red, Swollen, and Tender Gums

The first sign of gingivitis is bleeding, tender, or swollen gums. Healthy gums do not bleed, so if you notice red on your toothbrush, it is a good indication that you have gingivitis.

Inflammation is caused by the plaque and tartar that accumulate around the gum line. Without a proper oral hygiene regimen, plaque deposits remain on the teeth, and bacteria and toxins begin to irritate the gums. If you notice the signs of gingivitis, it is important to improve your brushing and flossing routines.

For optimal oral health, you should brush at least twice per day, and floss at least once per day. This will keep the plaque from building up on the teeth, and will improve the health of your gums. With proper at-home care, gingivitis can be completely reversed.

Periodontitis: The Development of Periodontal Pockets

If plaque deposits remain on the teeth for prolonged periods of time, the bacteria will eventually affect the underlying bone. Infection can lead to bone degeneration, and pockets will begin to form around the roots of the teeth. If this occurs, further bacteria, debris, and plaque can become impacted in the pockets. At this stage of gum disease, it is impossible to reach the problematic areas with brushing and flossing alone.

To address mild to moderate periodontitis, non-surgical periodontal therapy, such as scaling and root planing, can be performed. This procedure can eradicate bacteria and smooth the root surfaces to discourage further plaque from reattaching. This treatment may be performed in conjunction with the use of a prescription-strength, anti-bacterial mouth rinse.

Advanced Periodontitis: Mobility and Tooth Loss

If gum disease continues to go on untreated, the bacteria will continue to erode the supporting jaw structure. This will lead to loose teeth, and in many cases, tooth loss. Many patients also experience gum recession, which can lead to extreme sensitivity due to exposed roots.

Because oral bacteria can spread quickly to adjacent teeth, it is important to pursue treatment as soon as possible to avoid suffering further problems. For patients with advanced periodontitis, surgical intervention is necessary.

During treatment, the gums will be moved back, and the infection will be cleaned out. If compromised teeth can be saved, we will restore them. Bone grafting procedures may be performed to replace lost jawbone and provide support to the teeth. Often, however, advanced bone loss and severely damaged teeth will lead to the need for extractions.

Learn More about Gum Disease

If you are experiencing symptoms of periodontal disease, such as bleeding, tender, or swollen gums, schedule a consultation right away. With an early diagnosis, gum disease is manageable, and bone loss can be completely avoided. To learn more, you can contact us online anytime or call our office at (601) 936-2526.

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