Gum disease may start slow, but if an infection is left to run its course, the damage will be serious and permanent. If you have even an early stage of gum disease, the best course is to get treatment before problems multiply. If you have gum disease, find a dentist or periodontist quickly to save you from worse problems later on.
The Stages of Gum Disease
Gum disease begins when plaque (a sticky, colorless, bacteria-filled film) isn’t removed from teeth. When you don’t brush and floss, plaque builds up on your teeth and hardens into tartar, which can’t be removed with simple brushing. This tartar and the bacteria it contains start to irritate your gums. Without professional help, this infection will turn into the first stage of gum disease: gingivitis. The symptoms of gingivitis include gums that appear bright red and swollen, and often bleed during brushing and flossing. At this point there is no permanent damage to teeth or the underlying support structures. With proper daily dental hygiene and regular cleanings, gums will heal.
Unfortunately, if left untreated, gingivitis will progress to a more serious stage of gum disease: periodontitis. Once infected with periodontitis, the gums pull away from the teeth and pockets start to form between the root of the tooth and the gum. Periodontal pockets shelter bacteria that can’t be reached with brushing.
After this point, periodontal disease can progress rapidly as the body’s immune system releases antibodies to kill the harmful bacteria. These antibodies are actually harmful to the sensitive bone and tissue found in your mouth, breaking them down and removing support for the teeth, which can eventually fall out.
Consequences of Periodontitis
Tooth loss is the most obvious result of untreated periodontal disease. A smile full of gaps is a blow to self-confidence, but can also make it much harder to maintain a healthy, varied diet. This is reason enough to take gum disease seriously, but research shows that gum disease may also affect your overall health. Diabetes, heart disease, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis and premature birth are all correlated with gum disease. The bacteria that infect your gums can have serious and possibly life-threatening effects on the rest of your body, so protecting your gums is protecting your health.
If you have gum disease and are scouring the internet for a quality “dentist near me,” consider using the Opt-In Dental Advantage network. We work to help patients find dentists dedicated to quality care, allowing each patient to get the treatment they deserve. Use our free Find a Dentist tool today to find a periodontist in your area.