When most people think of gum disease, they think of the first stage of the condition. You probably know the name “gingivitis“, which is the beginning of gum disease. However, if gingivitis isn’t treated, gum disease can progress to periodontitis. Periodontitis has three stages, which are early, moderate, and advanced. The longer gum disease is left untreated, the more problems it can cause. At its worst, periodontitis can cause severe inflammation of the gums and bone loss in the teeth. It’s important to be aware of the stages of gum disease and how each can be treated so that you can prevent it causing problems.
The first stage of gum disease is gingivitis. It causes inflammation of the gums, due to a buildup of plaque and tartar. This early stage of gum disease is often easy treated. Firstly, your dentist or dental hygienist might clean your teeth. They can remove tartar, which means the surface of your teeth won’t be as attractive to bacteria. With cleaner teeth, it is easier to get rid of gum disease. Your dentist might also recommend that you use a special mouthwash or toothpaste. These treatments will help to get rid of the gingivitis, and your dentist will advise you on preventing its return.
If gingivitis isn’t treated, it could turn into periodontitis. This is a more serious form of gum disease, which could cause further problems. Periodontitis causes bone loss in your teeth, which could eventually lead to the loss of one or more teeth. Like gingivitis, it also causes inflammation in the gums. The early stage causes the first bone loss, which isn’t severe but can still cause issues. To treat mild periodontitis, your dentist will use a cleaning method called scaling and root planing. It removes plaque and tartar and smooths the roots of your teeth. This helps to prevent plaque staying on the roots of your teeth.
Moderate periodontitis comes with modern bone loss. At this point, scaling and root planing your teeth might not be enough to treat the condition. When gum disease reaches this stage, the patient might need to have surgery. Dentists first scale and root plane the patient’s teeth so they can assess the damage. If they decide surgical treatment is necessary, it can involve a couple of procedures. They might reshape the gums or try to encourage the bone to grow back.
Advanced or severe periodontitis is even more likely to require surgery. A periodontist usually deals with these issues. They have had several years more of education and training than a normal dentist. You could lose one or more teeth when you have severe periodontitis, so surgery can help to prevent that. Sometimes the dentist might recommend a course of antibiotics too. Even with treatment at this point, it is possible that tooth loss could occur.
If left untreated, gum disease can progress and lead to severe problems. It’s better to deal with it earlier, but any treatment is preferable to ignoring it.