Gum Health 101: How to Identify Periodontal Disease Stages

You may think that tooth loss only happens in old age. Yet, did you know that nearly half of US adults over the age of 30 are in one of periodontal disease stages? And periodontal disease is one of the leading causes of tooth loss.

You may know periodontal disease by its more common name: gum disease. Gum disease occurs when the tissue surrounding your teeth (AKA gums) gets inflamed from bacteria buildup.

The good news is that you can reverse gum disease in its tracks. You have to catch it in its earliest stage. But you may be wondering: how can you tell which stage of periodontal disease you’re experiencing?

Keep reading this guide for the answer to that question and more! Plus, stick around to find out how to get treated for gum disease in St. Louis.

The 4 Periodontal Disease Stages

Plaque — a film that forms on your teeth between meals — attracts bacteria. And bacteria buildup is ultimately responsible for periodontal disease. But how do these bacteria get on your teeth in the first place?

The human mouth is full of bacteria, most of which are harmless in small quantities. Yet, when you brush your teeth infrequently, these bacteria begin to multiply and cling to plaque buildup.

Plaque attracts still more bacteria, which eventually leads to oral inflammation. Oral inflammation is also known as gingivitis. And, as you’ll see next, gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease.

Stage 1: Gingivitis

Gingivitis is the term for inflammation of your gums. It results from a buildup of plaque on your teeth and the surrounding tissue, which can cause symptoms like:

  • Bad breath
  • Swollen or red gums
  • Bleeding after brushing or flossing

The good news about gingivitis is that you can eliminate gingivitis before it advances to full-on periodontitis. How? Improve your daily oral hygiene and never miss a dental checkup.


Stage 2: Early Periodontal Disease

Early periodontal disease isn’t reversible. It’s critical to get your gingivitis treated before it advances to this stage. The buildup of plaque and bacteria will cause pockets to form in the gums, where more bacteria can accumulate.

Early periodontitis symptoms include the three signs of gingivitis. Early periodontal disease also presents with a significant increase in gum pocket depth. Gum pockets are the space between the tooth and surrounding gum tissue.

Stage 3: Moderate Periodontal Disease

By the time your periodontitis has progressed to the moderate stage, you’ll start to experience pain. You may also risk losing teeth or, worse, pieces of your jawbone. The bacterial buildup in your mouth could spread to your bloodstream, too.

The signs of moderate periodontal disease are the same as early symptoms. However, your gum pocket depth will have increased even further, reaching up to six or seven millimeters.

Stage 4: Severe Periodontal Disease

Advanced periodontal disease is no joke. Experts estimate that people in this stage of periodontitis have a 50%–90% chance of losing portions of their jawbones.

Symptoms of severe periodontal disease include:

  • Painful gums that ooze pus
  • Sensitivity to heat or cold
  • Loose teeth,
  • Painful chewing.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s time for an emergency trip to your dentist’s office.

Periodontal Disease Treatments

The early stage of periodontal disease is relatively easy to treat.

But once you get to the point of early periodontal disease, brushing and flossing more regularly won’t cut it. You’ll need to see your dentist immediately. A dentist will use special tools to scrub away the plaque and bacteria to worsen your condition.

Dentists usually treat moderate periodontal disease with scaling and root planning. These are two types of deep cleaning treatments that remove bacteria deposits deep in the gums. Scaling and root planning can be expensive, which is why it’s best to catch your periodontitis before it reaches Stage 3.

Stage 4 of periodontal disease is the point of no return. At this point, even scaling and root planning won’t be enough to treat your teeth. A dentist will probably recommend surgery or laser therapy to clean out the gums’ deep bacteria deposits.

The worse your periodontitis gets, the more it’s going to cost you. For instance, losing your teeth from severe periodontitis may force you to pay for expensive implants or dentures.

But periodontal disease doesn’t just cost you in dollars. Failing to get your periodontitis treated can also result in more serious health threats.

What Happens If You Don’t Treat Periodontitis?

Treating your periodontal disease early is the only way to save your teeth. Don’t believe us? Then you need to know what happens if you don’t treat periodontitis in its earliest stages.

If you don’t get gingivitis or early periodontitis treated, it will progress to more advanced gum disease forms.

Moderate gum disease is the stage in which some people begin to experience bone and tooth loss. Stage 3 periodontal disease’s other negative side effects are:

  • Gum sensitivity
  • Excessive oral bleeding
  • Shifting teeth

Severe periodontal disease is nothing to mess around with. If you fail to seek treatment for Stage 4 periodontitis, your gums will start to recede, and you have a high chance of losing teeth. Even if you don’t lose teeth, the receding gumline will create unsightly gaps between your teeth.

Worse, advanced periodontal disease is known to increase the risk for other health conditions. For example, you may have an increased likelihood of suffering from stroke, diabetes, or heart disease.

Some studies have even linked gum disease to dementia and pregnancy complications.

Call Westport Dental in St. Louis

Periodontal disease has four stages. The first is gingivitis, followed by early, moderate, and severe periodontitis. Catching gum disease at its earliest stages is critical for a good prognosis.

Do you think you’re experiencing one of these four periodontal disease stages? Call Westport Dental in St. Louis right now to find out how we can help save your teeth!