Periodontal disease, also known as periodontitis or ‘gum disease,’ is an infection of the tissues responsible for holding the teeth in place. This common condition begins when bacteria are allowed to accumulate on the teeth and gums. If not properly treated, it can ultimately destroy gum tissue and possibly result in tooth loss.
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with periodontal disease, it’s important to know what to expect. Learn more about the stages of periodontitis, symptoms that can develop, and how this oral health condition is typically treated.
Learn the Stages of Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease goes through a series of steps, starting with inflammation that gradually worsens over time. The stages of periodontal disease include:
Periodontal disease begins when the gums become inflamed, a condition known as gingivitis. With gingivitis, the gums may bleed when flossing or brushing. You may also notice a buildup of discoloration on your teeth, also referred to as plaque. While there are always some bacteria in the mouth, it doesn’t usually become a problem until the bacteria begins to accumulate quickly. This typically occurs due to poor oral hygiene habits or when you don’t see your dentist regularly.
2. Early Periodontal Disease
If not reversed, gingivitis can gradually move into early periodontal disease. During the early stages of periodontitis, the gums may recede or pull away from the teeth, forming small pockets between the teeth and gums that harbor harmful bacteria. The gum tissue may then start to recede as the immune system tries to fight off the infection. In addition to bleeding when you brush and floss, you may also have some bone loss at this stage.
3. Moderate Periodontal Disease
When left to progress without treatment, moderate periodontal disease can develop. With this level of periodontitis, you may experience further bone loss, causing your teeth to become loose. In some cases, the inflammation will begin to spread to other areas of the body.
4. Advanced Periodontal Disease
The final stage is the most advanced form of gum disease. Advanced periodontal disease occurs when the connective tissue that holds the teeth in place begins to rapidly deteriorate. The gums, bones, and other supporting tissues in the mouth are ultimately destroyed. At this stage, you will likely have severe pain when you chew, a bad taste in your mouth, bad breath, and eventually the loss of your teeth.
Dental Treatment of Periodontal Disease for Teeth and Gums
Treatment can vary depending on the severity of the condition and how the patient responds to certain treatment plans. In general, treatment aims to remove plaque and bacterial accumulations on the teeth and gums.
Improving oral hygiene practices is the first step in treating periodontal disease. Your dentist will give you instructions on how to reduce the harmful bacteria in your mouth and keep your teeth and gums clean. Your dentist may give you tips on how to brush better and use floss correctly.
Professional cleanings are also an important component of fighting periodontal disease. A dental teeth cleaning by an experienced hygienist can help remove plaque buildup and tartar. Any periodontal pockets that may have formed between the teeth and gums will also require a more in-depth cleaning. The deep cleaning of the teeth and gums is known as scaling and root planing.
If your dentist discovers an infection in your mouth, she may prescribe antibiotics to help fight the infection. Antibiotics can be found in capsule, tablet, gel, or mouthwash form. Your dentist will also want to schedule a follow-up visit to assess the progress of your healing. If the periodontal pockets are still present, surgery may be needed.
A surgical procedure known as flap surgery may be recommended for patients with ongoing periodontal disease that does not respond to traditional treatment. During this surgery, the deposits under the gums are cleaned and sutured back into place.