Understand the different stages of gum disease.

Have you noticed any bleeding or discomfort around your gums after brushing or flossing? Irritated, tender gums often point to gum disease, a common oral health problem for almost half of the adult population. If you find yourself experiencing unusual gum-related symptoms, you may have either gingivitis or periodontitis.

What’s unique about gum disease is that it isn’t a specific condition but, rather, a category of oral disease split into two separate stages: gingivitis and periodontitis. To help dispel any confusion about these two conditions, we’re going to explain how they differ, what symptoms they often cause, and a typical treatment plan.

Gingivitis: Early Gum Disease With Mild Symptoms

What is gingivitis?

Gingivitis is the mildest of the two stages of gum disease. It doesn’t cause permanent damage to the gums or teeth, but it can be quite uncomfortable as it advances.

Gingivitis occurs when the gums are in a state of chronic inflammation. What generally happens is a buildup of plaque along the bottom of the teeth begins to push into the gum tissue. As this pressure occurs and bacteria are trapped, the body’s immune system responds and the gums become inflamed. While temporary inflammation is typically a healing response, when it is chronic, it has the opposite effect and negatively impacts the body — or in this case, the gums.

What are the symptoms of gingivitis?

Since gingivitis is a state of inflammation, the majority of gingivitis symptoms revolve around irritation of the gums. Most patients diagnosed with gingivitis experience one or more of these common symptoms:

  • Bleeding during or after brushing and flossing
  • Tenderness while brushing, flossing, or eating
  • Red, swollen, or puffy-looking gums
  • Gum sensitivity to hot or cold foods/beverages
  • Halitosis even after regular brushing and flossing

Keep in mind that you can have gingivitis even if you experience zero discomfort. Any visual signs of swelling or even light bleeding after flossing are reason enough to consult your dentist.

How is gingivitis treated?

Gingivitis often responds very well to treatment, with patients getting relief relatively quickly. The primary form of treatment for gingivitis is a combination of periodontal therapy and improving at-home dental care habits.

Periodontal therapy is a specialized type of gum care used to treat symptoms of both gingivitis and periodontitis. For a case of gingivitis, periodontal therapy includes a professional deep cleaning that removes all traces of plaque and bacteria from the gum tissue around the teeth and within the gum pockets surrounding each tooth.

Coupled with following your dentist’s recommended at-home care regimen, you’ll be well on your way to recovery.

Periodontitis: Advanced Gum Disease With Severe Symptoms

What is periodontitis?

Periodontitis is the most severe stage of gum disease and is often broken down into a few levels of severity. All levels of periodontitis can cause permanent damage to the gums and teeth if treatment isn’t pursued.

The first level of periodontitis is chronic periodontitis. After gingivitis advances, inflammation and exposure to bacteria spark infection, turning the condition into chronic periodontitis. As time goes on without treatment and the infection grows, periodontitis may evolve into aggressive periodontitis. The final level of periodontitis is necrotizing periodontitis. As the name suggests, this severe form of periodontitis causes oral tissue to die, causing irreversible damage to the teeth (i.e., tooth loss).

What are the symptoms of periodontitis?

The symptoms of periodontitis may vary widely in intensity between the three levels, but generally, patients experience:

  • Strong, foul-smelling breath
  • Signs of pus at the gums or between teeth
  • Gum recession and tooth root exposure
  • Gums easily bleeding when disturbed
  • Pain when chewing
  • Teeth feeling loose when wiggled

Periodontitis symptoms can also cause toothaches.

How is periodontitis treated?

Periodontitis is treated in a few different ways. The primary focus is to first get the infection under control. Your dentist will likely prescribe antibiotics right away, then determine if surgical treatment will be necessary.

Surgical treatment is generally needed to remove dead tissue and access under the gums to remove plaque and infection. Later on, cosmetic laser surgery may be used to repair any damaged gum tissue after the infection is addressed and healed.

Periodontal therapy will also be an important step in recovery. You’ll often need to see your dentist for these special cleanings every three months or more until you’re well on the road to recovery. Avoiding sugar, smoking, and alcohol, as well as sticking to a great dental hygiene routine at home, can help as well.

The sooner your symptoms are evaluated, the better!

Just like a cavity, gum disease doesn’t simply go away with time, especially in the case of periodontitis. Even a mild case of gingivitis should be monitored by your dentist to prevent it from escalating into a bigger problem. As for periodontitis, professional dental care is an absolute necessity, as permanent damage can and will be done if the infection isn’t quickly controlled.

Remember, if anything ever seems amiss with your gums or teeth, that’s reason enough to give your dentist a call.

Protect your gum health at Millennium Dental.

If you suspect you have gingivitis, periodontitis, or you’re experiencing anything that’s a bit off with your smile, Dr. Harrison and the Millennium Dental team are ready to help.

You can schedule a visit by calling our Plano, TX, office or using this online form.