Did you know gum disease is completely preventable, and even reversible when caught in the early stages? Did you also know there are different levels of gum disease? Gum disease is a progressive condition that gets worse when not treated in its early stages. Here we look at how serious each stage of gum disease is, the progression of signs and symptoms, and what treatments are recommended.
What Are The Levels Of Gum Disease?
There are five stages of gum disease starting with the early signs and ending with the worst-case scenario of advanced periodontitis:
Stage 1 – Early Stages: This is just before we can formally say you have the first level of gum disease, gingivitis. At this time everything is relatively healthy, but you might see occasional bleeding when you brush, or even taste blood once in a while when eating something like an apple. This is a touchy time because really, only a dentist is going to notice the slight changes to your gums to warn you something is amiss. Even healthy gums will see occasional bleeding. If you notice it, it makes sense to mention it to your dentist before it gets to the second stage.
Stage 2 – Gingivitis: This is the first formal stage of gum disease. At this stage, you have gum disease with more frequent occurrences of bleeding when you brush. You’ll also have noticed redness or swelling in your gums. Some people not only see more frequent bleeding but also a milky discharge called an exudate. As soon as you notice tenderness, bleeding and swelling, set up an appointment with your dentist. This is the time to reverse the effects.
Stage 3 – Early Periodontitis: This is the stage when your dentist is going to say “uh oh” when they examine your gums. Why? Because it is completely preventable and could have been avoided if you had mentioned your symptoms when your gum disease was still in the gingivitis stage. When gingivitis isn’t treated you develop periodontal disease. You really want to avoid this because your gums become inflamed and tender. They also look bad, turning pale because they lack a healthy supply of blood.
At this stage, the build-up of plaque has hardened, developing tartar or “calculus” which is far more harmful than plaque. Now, not only are your gums affected, but the bone structures anchoring your teeth to your jaw are also at risk. When this happens, tooth loss can occur. Don’t let it get to that point, and call your dentist right away.
Stage 4 – Moderate Periodontitis: We don’t have to say this is now entering bad news territory. Moderate periodontal disease means you are now experiencing visible gum recession which exposes the area of your tooth beneath the gum line. As a result, your teeth are very vulnerable to tooth decay and also will be prone to painful sensitivity. Worse yet, this also means you have damage to your jawbone leading to loose teeth, literally making your teeth wobble and possibly shift position. Discharge and an unpleasant taste in your mouth are signs of infection.
Stage 5 – Advanced Periodontitis: This of course is the worst-case scenario. Your gums have now shrunk so much that an alarming amount of your vulnerable tooth is exposed. Your teeth are now noticeably in poor health with discolouration along the exposed tooth at the gumline, lack of colour in your gums, and loose teeth. Your jaw is also now under attack from infection, and at this point, if you don’t seek treatment tooth loss is a given.
Treatment For Gum Disease
Here are the treatments available for each stage of gum disease:
- Stage 1: As mentioned above, a good professional cleaning and instruction on proper care will ensure gingivitis never sets in. Stick to the regime and you’re good for life.
- Stage 2: Here a thorough cleaning and stricter regime will help reverse progression. We might recommend special tools to assist with flossing and a different toothpaste to improve gum health.
- Stage 3: At this stage, you can still reverse the progression, but it will take a lot more effort. A basic cleaning won’t do the trick here and instead, you’ll require a more aggressive, deeper cleaning called root planing and scaling. We’ll often have to prescribe antibiotics if you are at risk of infection, as well as a prescription for oral mouthwash to combat gingivitis.
- Stage 4 & 5: Both end stages call for serious dental surgery procedures which are required to clear out all traces of the diseased tissue and replace it with healthy tissue. These procedures include:
- Pocket reduction procedures: Pocket reduction removes harmful bacteria trapped between your gums and teeth. This is the only way to remove oral infection in more advanced stages of gum disease.
- Regenerative procedures: Soft tissue is taken from the roof of your mouth and sutured to the areas where recession is severe. The tissue fuses to the area to reform a tight seal to protect your teeth and strengthen your damaged gumline.
- Crown lengthening: Crown lengthening removes excess damaged gum tissue, and in some cases bone, to make your teeth look longer.
- Soft tissue grafts: Soft tissue grafting covers exposed tooth roots with tissue removed from the roof of your mouth. It can also be used to thicken gum tissue in sensitive areas and improve the appearance of damaged gums.
The longer you leave your gum disease untreated, the more invasive and costly the treatments become.
How To Prevent Gum Disease
As you can see, gum disease regardless of the stage is no fun. We recommend you avoid gum disease altogether with these basic tips:
- Maintain excellent oral hygiene at home including brushing and flossing twice daily
- Use proper brushing and flossing techniques
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
- Avoid unhealthy snacks such as high sugar, high fat or high carb treats
- Quit smoking
- Manage stress levels
- Visit your dentist on a regular basis