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Understanding the Stages of Gum Disease

Stephen Malki Feb 15, 2018

Are your gums tender? Do they bleed when you brush or floss? You could be experiencing symptoms of gum disease. Although rarely painful, periodontal disease can wreak havoc on your oral health, leading to serious issues such as bone atrophy, mobility, and tooth loss. At our River Edge, NJ, dental practice, Dr. Stephen J. Malki offers non-surgical periodontal treatment so our patients can achieve and maintain healthy teeth and gums for years to come. Understanding the stages of gum disease can help you better recognize the warning signs and symptoms.

digital illustration of the stages of gum disease

Stage One: Gingivitis

The first sign of gum disease is gingivitis, which is characterized by red, swollen, bleeding gums. Gingivitis is the body’s response to an accumulation of plaque around the teeth. As the plaque deposits form, an overgrowth of bacteria develops, and the gum tissues react to the irritants. Some people develop gingivitis during hormone fluctuations. For example, the condition commonly affects adolescents who are going through puberty. Women also tend to develop gingivitis during menopause and pregnancy.

Gingivitis can typically be treated with a regular dental cleaning and improved brushing and flossing at home. However, if the condition is left untreated, it can lead to periodontitis.

Stage Two: Periodontitis

If the plaque is not routinely removed through proper oral hygiene, the bacteria can penetrate the gum line. When this happens, the infection can form pockets around the roots of the teeth. Once the pockets form, plaque, food, and debris can become impacted, resulting in further infection. Patients may experience bad breath or an unpleasant taste in their mouth.

To address this stage of gum disease, improved oral hygiene and a regular dental cleaning are insufficient. To treat mild to moderate periodontitis, a deep dental cleaning is typically recommended. Also referred to as scaling and root planing, a deep cleaning is a non-surgical periodontal treatment. To perform this procedure, the gums must be numbed so the clinician can clean deep into the gum line. After disinfecting the periodontal pockets, they will then smooth the root surfaces of the teeth to deter irritants from reattaching.

Stage Three: Advanced Periodontitis

If periodontitis is left untreated, the damaging bacteria will continue to spread. As the jawbone becomes affected, eventually eroding, the teeth can become mobile. This stage is referred to as advanced periodontitis, and it often leads to significant changes in your bite and widespread tooth loss.

Unfortunately, non-surgical periodontal treatments are not effective against advanced gum disease. Even a dentist or hygienist cannot clean that deep into the gum line. A referral to a periodontist is typically required, and surgery is usually necessary to correct the condition. To perform periodontal surgery, the gums must be gently lifted, the infection cleaned out, and the gums repositioned. Often, bone grafting procedures are necessary to replace the density that has been lost through atrophy.

It is not difficult to understand why diagnosing and treating gum disease in the early stages is preferable. Not only is early treatment much more predictable, it is also more affordable and less invasive.

Learn More about Non-Surgical Periodontal Therapy

If you are suffering with symptoms of gum disease, schedule a consultation with Dr. Malki right away. You can reach our practice by contacting us online.

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River Edge Office

111 Kinderkamack Rd
River Edge, NJ 07661

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