Periodontal disease refers to an inflammation and infection of the gum tissue and it will affect most adults at some stage. Since so many people are affected by gum disease, it is important that the population understands a little more about this condition. Knowledge of the condition and periodontal disease stages mean that you have a very good chance of protecting your teeth and gums in the long-term.
What causes periodontal gum disease?
Periodontal disease is an oral condition that can affect the gum tissue, teeth and bone underneath the gums. It is chiefly a bacterial infection, which is caused when toxins are released by the food that we eat on a daily basis and plaque and tartar.
When you eat, bacteria in the mouth flourish as they feed on the food particles that remain inside your mouth and stuck between your teeth. The bacteria and your saliva mix together and produce a sticky, yellow-like matter called plaque. If plaque is not removed regularly, then it will harden on your teeth and beneath the gum line and become tartar.
If high amounts of bacteria, plaque and tartar develop in the mouth, it leads to infection. This infection, if caught early on can be easily reversed and oral health restored. However, if the infection is left to develop further, then serious dental health problems can occur. The effects of bad oral health and other health issues are well known.
Bacteria and plaque must be removed from the teeth and gums daily to maintain good dental hygiene. In order to prevent this infection from taking root and causing some potentially serious dental problems, you need to follow a good oral health routine. This should include:
- Brushing ideally after each meal, but at least twice a day
- Flossing every day using the correct technique
- Rinsing your mouth with a mouthwash twice a day
- Visiting your dentist for a routine check-up and clean every six months.
What are the stages of periodontal disease?
There are a few different stages of periodontal disease from mild to extreme. The three chief stages of gum disease are:
- Advanced periodontitis
Gingivitis is the initial and mildest form of periodontal disease. Shockingly, however, almost every adult will develop this phase of the condition at some time. This highlights just how easy it is to develop mild gum disease and how important it is for you to remain consistent with your home dental care routine.
This stage of the condition occurs when there is the beginning of a bacterial infection in the gum tissue inside the mouth. Some of the symptoms you may experience with gingivitis include:
- Persistent bad breath, even after you have brushed your teeth
- Gums that bleed after brushing or eating crunchy food
- Redder or darker than normal coloured gums
- Swelling and inflammation
- Gums that are tender when touched.
At this stage the gum disease is easily treated because the condition only affects the gum tissue. If these symptoms are present in your mouth, then you must see your dentist for a deep clean and professional advice about how to successfully treat your condition.
Most of the time, you can successfully treat gingivitis simply by stepping up your home dental hygiene. Make sure that you are brushing after each meal using the correct technique for two minutes. Floss your teeth at least once a day and use an alcohol-free mouthwash twice a day. If you follow this routine consistently, then you have a very good chance of overcoming the condition without the need for invasive dental treatments or medications.
If gingivitis is not properly treated, then the condition will worsen until it becomes periodontitis. This is a much more serious stage of gum disease bringing with it some potentially long-term dental problems.
Once gum disease has become periodontitis, you run a substantial risk of either losing teeth or having to undergo expensive, painful and invasive dental procedures to restore oral health.
When you have arrived at this stage, the bacterial infection of the gum tissue may be serious enough that you need to take oral antibiotics. In addition, surgical procedures may be required to remove diseased gum tissue or restore the tissue so that it can successfully support the teeth.
At this stage you may experience the same symptoms as gingivitis as well as:
- Receding gums – where the gums pull back from the teeth, thereby minimising the support they offer.
- Loose teeth – due to receding gums, your teeth may become wobbly.
- Periodontal pockets – these are little puckered pockets of gum tissue near the tooth root that collect bacteria.
Advanced periodontal disease
The condition of the teeth and gums continues to deteriorate when you have advanced periodontal disease. This can include:
- Tooth loss
- Infection of the bone around the teeth
- Increased depth of periodontal pockets.
There are various ways in which this stage may be dealt with by your dentist. The specific treatments will be chosen based on your individual circumstances. Among the procedures that may be considered include:
Scaling and root planing – this is done to remove the plaque and tartar on the teeth and under the gum line.
Antibiotics – these are normally prescribed alongside other treatments to help eradicate bacterial infection.
Gingival flap surgery – the gums are folded back while the dentist cleans out the bacteria from the pockets and then gums are reattached.
Gum grafting – tissue is taken from other areas, such as the roof of the mouth, and used to replace diseased gum tissue around the teeth.