You’ve probably lied to your dentist about how often you floss. We get it. It’s not exactly the most glamorous aspect of oral hygiene, and you probably don’t see the point for it.
This may seem like dentist propaganda, but it is actually essential to maintain a flossing routine to reduce plaque buildup at the gum level. If brushing is a superhero, then floss is its trusty sidekick. And the supervillain they’re fighting together is gum disease.
Gum disease is a blanket term for any type of periodontal disease. Periodontal is a fancy word meaning “around your teeth,” or simply, your gums. It’s estimated that approximately 42% of people over the age of thirty have some form of gum disease.
In its earliest stage, gum disease can be treated, and your gums will be as good as new in no time. However, by the time gum disease advances to its second stage, the effects become irreversible. Let’s review the four stages of gum disease and what you can do to prevent the condition from advancing further.
The Four Stages of Gum Disease
Stage One: Gingivitis
Gingivitis is the first phase of gum disease and is caused by plaque buildup on teeth. When plaque isn’t removed correctly, it accumulates at the gum line and irritates your gums. Signs of gingivitis include irritated, red gums, and possible bleeding when you brush or floss.
Gingivitis is reversible as long as it’s caught and treated before it advances into periodontitis. But you can avoid gingivitis altogether with regular visits to the dentist and staying on top of your oral hygiene routine.
Stage Two: Early Periodontitis
Early periodontitis will feel and look a lot like gingivitis, but the distinguishing characteristics of early-stage periodontitis are behind the scenes. If gingivitis is left untreated, the bones that hold your teeth into place begin to disintegrate at the root. At the first indication of gingivitis, you should consult your dentist to check whether the disease has advanced to the bone.
Stage Three: Moderate Periodontitis
Moderate periodontitis occurs when more bone begins to decay, and gum tissue is destroyed as well. In some cases, teeth may start to feel loose.
Stage Four: Advanced Periodontitis
Advanced periodontitis is the most severe form of the disease. As the bones and gum tissue continue to disintegrate, teeth may become extremely sore, and biting or chewing might hurt. In some cases, teeth may fall out or need to be removed.
Patients with advanced periodontitis need extensive dental care to mitigate the effects of the disease and prevent any teeth from falling out.
How to Prevent Gum Disease
As we said in the beginning, the best thing you can do to prevent gum disease is to maintain good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing every day to keep plaque from building up. Visiting your dentist once or twice a year for a checkup can help eliminate any hard-to-remove tartar that’s attached to your teeth.
If you have braces, a permanent retainer, or other complication that makes it more difficult for you to brush your teeth, ask your dentist for help to determine the best methods to get your teeth shining and plaque-free.
Should I See a Periodontist?
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms associated with gum disease, including:
- Swollen, bleeding, red, and tender gums
- Pain when chewing
- Loose tooth (or teeth)
- Abnormal sensitivity, especially near your gums
- Constant bad taste in your mouth and bad breath
- Gums that are pulling away from your teeth
- Sensitive teeth
Then it’s time to visit a periodontist.
At Texas Periodontal Associates, we’ll do a complete examination to check for gum disease. We may take x-rays to determine how advanced the disease is or if another issue causes your sensitivity.
Tender gums may seem like they’re not a big deal, but the longer you ignore the signs and leave your teeth untreated, the worse things can get.
If you’re concerned that you may have gum disease and you live in the greater Houston area, give us a call at (713) 457-6351 or fill out our online form.