Today, just under 50% of adults aged 30 and above in the United States suffer from some form of gum disease. But, gum disease comes in various shapes and forms. Additionally, the condition has different stages, one leading to more serious symptoms than the other.
The key to treating gum disease before it gets too bad is to understand the different stages. This will allow you to identify symptoms and get medical attention before your condition evolves into something more sinister.
Read on to find out more about the different stages of gum disease and the various symptoms associated with them. We’ll also tell you more about your treatment options.
What Is Gum Disease?
Gum disease affects your teeth, gums, and the bone that supports your teeth. It happens when bacteria forms in the plaque on your teeth. If you don’t brush your teeth on a daily basis, the bacteria spreads, affecting your teeth, gums, gum tissue, and the bone that supports your teeth. Over time, your teeth may become loose or fall out. You may also get such a bad infection that your dentist has to remove your teeth altogether.
The Three Stages of Gum Disease
There are various gum disease stages and some are worse than others. Here’s an outline of all of them.
Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease. It is also the easiest to treat. During this stage of gum disease, there is plaque buildup around the gumline. If you don’t brush your teeth to remove the plaque and any excess food stuck in your teeth, it produces poisons. These poisons irritate the gum tissue, thus causing gingivitis.
But, poor oral health isn’t the only cause of gingivitis. You may also get gingivitis from any of the following:
- Poor fitting dental appliances
- Genetic factors
Dental appliances that don’t fit correctly and broken fillings can also cause gingivitis.
There are two levels to periodontitis. The first level is slight and the second is moderate. No matter which level you fall in, periodontitis is the second stage of gum disease. It means the disease has spread past your gumline and started destroying the bone that supports your teeth.
While there are symptoms of periodontitis, this stage normally comes without any pain. Unfortunately, this means that many patients only find out they have gum disease when it’s too late.
To make matters worse, periodontitis attacks more than the gums, teeth, and supporting bone. The infectious bacteria spread to the bloodstream which can reduce immune function and lead to other serious health conditions.
If left untreated, your dental issues will evolve to the final stage of gum disease: advanced periodontitis. During this stage, the infection spreads further and becomes increasingly painful. Unfortunately, by the time you get to this stage, there is very little you or your dentist can do to reverse the condition.
But, it’s essential that you consult your dentist because, without professional help, periodontitis can lead to:
- Further gum recession
- Increased sensitivity to cold and hot food and drinks
- Loosening of the teeth
- Tooth loss
- Spacing between the teeth
- Bacteria in the bloodstream
In a short amount of time, you could contract other infections leading to serious health problems in the long run.
Symptoms of Gum Disease
The symptoms of gum disease depend on the stage you’re in. That said, there are some common symptoms that you should look out for. Here they are:
Unlike popular belief, your gums shouldn’t bleed when you brush your teeth. That said, if you don’t floss on a regular basis, the bacteria can build up leading them to bleed. Over time, the bleeding can get worse. This can lead to:
- Red gums
- Sore gums
Your teeth may also become more sensitive because of an infection.
If you believe your teeth look longer than usual, your gums may be receding. This means that you’re losing the gum tissue around your teeth which, over time, will expose the root. If this happens, your dentist will measure the outer surface of your teeth to gauge how much gum tissue you’ve lost.
Gum pockets are when there is a space between the gums and the teeth. This is different from receding gums and is a sign of advanced periodontitis. If you have gum pockets, your dentist will probe the space between your gums and your teeth to establish where the gum attaches. If the pockets are more than 3mm deep, you may have an infection.
The two gum conditions above can lead to tooth sensitivities. Receding gums, as well as gums with inflammation or pockets, can expose the root surface of the teeth. This exposure leads to:
- Wear in the root surface
- Tooth sensitivity
- Tooth loss
You will notice tooth sensitivity when eating or drinking hot and cold foods and beverages.
High Blood Sugar Levels
If you have a spike in blood pressure this could be a sign of gum disease. In the long run, this can put you at risk of type 2 diabetes. But, the relationship between type 2 diabetes and gum disease is a vicious circle. Simply put, people with type 2 diabetes are at higher risk of contracting gum disease. Some common signs of high blood sugar levels include:
- Trouble concentrating
- Problems with vision
- Lack of energy
- Weight loss
If you experience any of the symptoms above, ask your doctor to test your blood sugar levels. Also, check with your doctor for gum disease.
Bad breath is a common symptom of bacterial infection. It happens when food builds up on the teeth and makes its way into the gums. The bacteria grows in your mouth which causes the bad smell.
Treating Gum Disease
The treatment for gum disease depends completely on the stage you’re in. In the early stages, the correct oral hygiene can reverse your symptoms. Your dentist will also remove the plaque buildup on your teeth with a professional clean. During this process, they’ll remove the tartar around the gumline which will prevent any infections.
Unfortunately, during the later stages of gum disease, you can’t restore your teeth to their original state without professional help as you may need restorative surgery. This is especially true if your teeth are loose or falling out.
The key to keeping your teeth healthy and clear from these three stages of gum disease is to maintain a good oral hygiene regime. You should also have regular checkups with your dentist or hygienist to ensure that your gums aren’t harvesting bacteria. Make sure you look out for any of the symptoms above and don’t be afraid to consult a professional if you have any concerns.
Sarah Barnes is a freelance writer and digital nomad with a passion for all things travel, food, and health. She’s traveled to more than 50 countries and has worked with a variety of holistic nutritionists and health coaches along her way. She’s currently creating her own platform to help people manage their gastrointestinal problems through healthy yet yummy food.