Periodontal Disease

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Gum Disease

Bleeding gums should not be considered “normal”, yet the National Institute of Health and the Centers for Disease Control have found that about half of Americans over the age of 30 have gums that bleed when they brush or floss.

Bleeding gums could mean that you have periodontal disease.

Periodontal diseases are caused by infections in the tissues that surround your teeth. This includes the well-known disease, gingivitis; which is the earliest stage of periodontal disease. The major cause of these infections are various sources of bacteria introduced from dental plaque.

It goes beyond just the swelling and bleeding of gums. Periodontal disease that goes untreated can allow the infection to spread, destroying the structures in your mouth that support your teeth. Eventually, the affected teeth will have to be extracted.

Signs and Symptoms of Periodontal Disease

periodontal disease

Periodontal disease has its origins in the bacteria in the sticky plaque that forms on your teeth. Your first defense is regular and thorough brushing and flossing. Even regular brushers often miss the tiny spaces between their teeth and near the gumline, and few people floss correctly.

This deficiency in hygiene can allow plaque to sneak in below the gumline. This is another reason why regular, professional cleanings are so important — they keep plaque under control in those hard-to-reach places. It’s also an opportunity for your dental providers to get in there and assess the situation, letting us catch little problems before they grow into big problems.

Stages of Periodontal Disease

1. Stage One — Gingivitis
The earliest stage of gum disease is commonly known as gingivitis. We’ll see inflammation of the gums without any bone loss. This stage is relatively common for those that don’t have great oral hygiene, but give it some level of effort. At this stage, the damage is reversible if you are diligent with brushing and flossing and have regular cleanings. More than 50% of the population will develop this stage of gum disease.
Warning Signs
– Bad breath
– Red and swollen gums
– Bleeding as a result of flossing

2. Stage Two — Early Periodontitis
As gum disease advances, the inflammation in the gums and surrounding tissues is accompanied by early bone loss. The infection is extending below the gums and has begun eating away at the supporting bone structures. Regular daily oral hygiene is now insufficient to counter the infection. More than 10% of the population will develop this stage of the disease, leading to bone loss.
Warning Signs
– Increased redness
– Breath – even worse
– Bleeding as a result of brushing and flossing
– Probing depths of 4-5 mm (pockets forming around teeth)

3. Moderate Periodontitis
In the third stage, bone loss has become significant. The body will go through alternating periods of chronic inflammation in an attempt to heal, with up to 50% of bone loss from the roots of the teeth. Scaling and root planing could be needed to remove bacteria that is deep beneath your gums. At this point, infectious bacteria is entering the bloodstream and compromising your immune system.
Warning Signs
– Increased redness
– Breath – even worse
– Bleeding as a result of brushing and flossing
– Probing depths of 6-7 mm (pockets forming around teeth)
– Gum recession and sensitivity

4. Advanced Periodontitis
By this stage, a majority of the bone has been lost from the roots of teeth. At this point, teeth are becoming loose, abscesses form, and there will be accompanying pain. There is a good possibility of losing all of the teeth. Periodontal surgery and therapy will be needed to clear out the bacteria and halt the progress of the infection.
Warning Signs
– Gums will discharge pus
– Gums and teeth sensitive to cold
– Bleeding
– Severe bad breath
– Pain when chewing and smiling
– Deep pockets around teeth (7+ mm)

Preventing Periodontal Disease – You and Your Dentist


Periodontal disease starts painlessly, slowing advancing to an irreversible stage before you notice any serious problems. You, of course, need to do your part by brushing and flossing regularly.

In order to minimize your risk, you should regularly see your dentist and receive regular professional cleanings. Prevention is the best way to deal with all forms of gum disease. Your dentist has the tools necessary to remove tartar that has built up on your teeth in hard to reach places. If addressed promptly, we can return you to good oral health.

If you’re overdue for a checkup or a cleaning, contact us today to schedule an appointment and receive a thorough exam.

~Dr. Marea White