To emphasize how important it is to recognize gum disease as early as possible, we’re starting this blog with two important statistics: 1) Nearly half of people over age 30 in the United States have gum disease; and 2) An estimated 178 million people in this country are missing at least one tooth. These statistics are closely linked as gum disease is a leading driver of tooth loss.
If you want to avoid being a part of these statistics altogether, catching periodontal disease before it does irreparable damage is paramount. To help, the team here at Baton Rouge Perio, led by Dr. Jenny Herman and Dr. Kenneth Markle, reviews the four stages of gum disease and the signs of each.
Periodontal disease is progressive and starts when bacteria begin to make their way to your gumline. When this happens, you can develop minor swelling and redness where your gums meet your teeth, a condition we call gingivitis.
Outside of this minor inflammation and redness, your gums may feel a little sensitive and they might bleed easily, especially when you’re brushing or flossing your teeth.
This early stage of gum disease is one of the easiest for us to treat. Often all it takes is a good cleaning to clear away the bacteria from your gums.
During the second stage of gum disease, which is a mild form of periodontitis, your gums begin to pull away from your teeth. This gum recession allows bacteria-harboring plaque and tartar to form in pockets under your gums, where you can’t reach them.
During this stage of gum disease, you may see visual evidence of gum recession and your gums will likely be red and sensitive where pockets have formed. You may also experience bleeding when you brush your teeth.
At this stage, we can often use a scaling and root planing procedure to get rid of the periodontitis and preserve your teeth and gums. During this procedure, we clean under your gums, remove the bacteria, and eliminate the pockets.
As the bacteria in the pockets under your gums continue to eat away at your hard and soft tissues, your gums begin to separate from your teeth in earnest. As a result, your teeth may start to look a little longer.
While the bacteria wreak havoc in your gum tissues, they also eat away at the bone, and both can cause your teeth to loosen.
The bacteria can also create infections in your gums, which can lead to pain and tenderness in your mouth, as well as the presence of pus. At this stage, it’s likely that you develop bad breath due to the infections.
With moderate gum disease, we need to get more aggressive with our treatments, which can include pocket reduction surgery, bone grafting, soft tissue grafts, and guided tissue regeneration.
When gum disease is allowed to progress unchecked, it eventually eats away at the structures that are holding your teeth in place, causing you to lose teeth.
When your gum disease advances to his point, treatment often comes down to replacing missing teeth.
As you can see, the earlier we can identify and treat your gum disease, the easier your treatments are and the better your outcome.