The Stages of Gum Disease

By: Patricia Woloch

If you ever wondered why your mom was always on your case about brushing your teeth and took you to the dentist all the time, you will be in for a rude awakening if you let these habits lapse. Inadequate dental hygiene can lead to gum disease. If the condition is not addressed and reversed, tooth loss may eventually occur. There are several stages and types of gum disease about which you should be aware.

Gum disease starts with the build up of plaque, which is a thin layer of film that continuously grows on your teeth. Plaque harbors bacteria which, when left to themselves, began to infect the underlying gum. When plaque builds up, it can push the gums away from the base of one or more teeth, making room for even more plaque and bacteria to grow.

The earliest stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. This condition is usually not painful, but results in red and bleeding gums. If not corrected by adequate brushing and flossing, which toughens up and clean the gums, the condition may worsen to full blown peridontitis.

Chronic peridontitis is the most common stage of gum disease and is frequently found in adults. Peridontitis is an infection of the tissues and bones surrounding and supporting the teeth. In this stage of gum disease, the receding gum line shrivels and creates pockets around the root and bone structures of the mouth, creating reservoirs for bacteria to grow. As the gums weaken and shrivel, the tooth can become detached and loosen or even fall out. If not treated, the tooth may need to be pulled and replaced with a dental implant, bridge, or dentures.

Necrotizing peridontitis is the most severe stage of the disease and is most commonly found in malnourished persons or persons with suppressed immune systems. The gingival tissue actually necrotizes which means that it dies and turns black.

Acute peridontitis occurs suddenly and often appears in an otherwise healthy person. Common symptoms include rapid detachment from the bone of the surrounding gums. The bacteria feed on the bone and weaken the bone structure, causing one or more loose teeth.

The chances of developing gum disease are more prevalent in adults, but children and teenagers are also susceptible. Poor diet, lackluster brushing, and wearing braces all contribute to the risk factors for teen gum disease. One of the biggest risk factors for teens and adults is tobacco use. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), people who smoke or use chewing tobacco are at greater risk for advanced gum disease.

To ensure that your mouth stays healthy, it is important to schedule frequent visits to a qualified dental professional. If you dread going to the dentist, you can find one that specializes in sedation dentistry. Most importantly, if you haven't already done so, make a habit out of brushing and flossing your teeth after every meal. Teeth are a precious commodity and should be taken care of diligently.

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