Periodontal (gum) disease is a progressive condition that is characterized by a chronic infection of the gums and supporting structures (bone and tissue) surrounding the teeth. If not treated properly, periodontal disease can cause serious dental health problems, including tooth loss. In fact, periodontal disease is one of the leading causes of tooth loss in American adults.
Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease. Gingivitis involves an inflammation of the gums caused by plaque buildup at the gumline. When plaque is not removed by daily brushing and flossing, it produces toxins that can irritate the gum tissue. This irritation causes gingivitis. With gingivitis, you may notice some bleeding during brushing and flossing. At this point, the damage can be reversed as the bone and connective tissues supporting the teeth are not yet affected.
Periodontitis is the second stage of gum disease. If you have reached this stage, the bone and supporting tissues in your mouth have been irreversibly damaged. In this stage, pockets may begin to form below the gumline. These pockets can trap food and plaque and cause a harmful buildup of bacteria. At this stage, proper dental care is needed to prevent further damage. This may include a deep, professional cleaning (scaling and root planing).
Advanced periodontitis is the most advanced stage of gum disease. At this point, the fibers and bone supporting your teeth are destroyed and this can cause your teeth to shift or loosen. This can threaten the long-term health of your teeth. If your teeth cannot be saved, they will need to be removed and replaced with either dentures, a bridge or dental implants.
The best way to fight periodontal disease is to treat it early to prevent it from progressing to advanced periodontitis. If your gums are swollen and/or bleed easily, this could be a sign of periodontal disease. Schedule an appointment with your dentist today so you can prevent the progression of this common and serious dental health problem.