Gum Disease – Gingivitis And Periodontitis

Excerpt: Many patients are afflicted with gingivitis and they may not even realize it. One of the biggest indicators of infected gums is bleeding puffy gums. If your gums bleed...
Table of Contents

Fast Facts Gingivitis 

  • A periodontist specialty is gum disease, mainly advanced periodontitis.
  • There are 4 stages of gum disease, only gingivitis is 100% reversible.
  • Having proper oral care and a balanced diet is a great defense against gingivitis.

Many patients are afflicted with gingivitis and they may not even realize it. One of the biggest indicators of infected gums is bleeding puffy gums. If your gums bleed from any or no agitation, then there’s a good chance you have some degree of gingivitis. If left untreated, gingivitis may eventually turn into periodontitis, which can get bad enough to require a specialist to repair the damage.

Gingivitis – What is it?

Gingivitis causes inflammation of the gums, they will appear to be puffy or swollen, this is also will be accompanied by bleeding. The bleeding typically occurs from brushing, flossing, or eating specific foods that may be harsher on your gums.

Gingivitis is a precursor of periodontitis.

Periodontitis – What is it?

Periodontitis is a more advanced form of gingivitis, this is a very serious condition that can cause tooth loss and even bone loss. At this point, bacteria may have built up enough under the gums that it is actually causing the gums to pull away from your teeth.

Gingivitis & periodontitis – Why does it happen?

Your gums attach themselves directly to your teeth, they are actually attached at a lower point than what is visible. The point of attachment forms a small space called a sulcus, this pocket can actually trap food and plaque, which will eventually turn into tartar. Once enough food and plaque are trapped in the gum pocket, it can start to force the gums away from the teeth. Once this starts to occur, you can even begin to lose teeth (they may just loosen & or fall out), in very extreme cases you can even lose bone.

If you have periodontitis you will need to see a dentist to remedy the issue, if it is very bad, or the dentist does not have the skill set to deal with it, you may need to see a periodontist, which is a gum specialist.

Summary – Why does gingivitis happen?

Mostly from plaque, bacteria, and food buildup. This will cause the gums to be pushed further away from your teeth resulting in further complications.

Who’s at risk for gingivitis and periodontitis?

For the majority of patients, gingivitis has early enough symptoms that periodontitis can be prevented. However, this will only happen if you change your oral care routine, and possibly your lifestyle choices. Here are a few ways in which you may be more at risk for either gingivitis or periodontitis.
 
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Diabetes
  • Consuming certain medications (ask your dentist)
  • Crooked teeth
  • Poorly fitted dental appliances
  • Broken fillings
  • Pregnancy
  • Genetic factors
  • Compromised immunity such as with HIV/AIDS

Summary – Who is at risk?

Everybody is at risk, there are certain factors that can make you more prone to gum disease, like bad oral care or an unbalanced diet.

Does gum disease have any signs or symptoms?

Yes! There are lots of early indicators for gingivitis, in fact, many of these can be reversed within days to a few weeks if you’re on the lookout for them.
 
  • Red, tender, or swollen gums.
  • Gums that bleed when they are flossed or brushed.
  • Unexplained loose teeth.
  • A change in your bite (malocclusion)
  • Pus between your teeth and gums, or while chewing
  • Overly sensitive teeth/or pain while chewing.
  • Dentures that no longer fit
  • Stubborn bad breath (halitosis) 

How Are Gingivitis And Periodontitis Diagnosed?

Even if you are not a dentist you may be able to diagnose gingivitis since it is very visual. However, it will be difficult to diagnose it when it advances to periodontitis (this is why you should never rely on Dr. Google, go see a dentist). One way a dentist can diagnose periodontitis is to check for inflation, and also measure the gap in the pockets in between your teeth. This is done with a small dental ruler they use specifically for this purpose. If the gap is bigger than 3mm, there is a good chance you have developed periodontitis.

Summary – How is gum disease diagnosed?

Gum disease has lots of early warning signs, however, it may be difficult to tell if it’s advanced before it’s too late.

4 distinct stages of gum disease

Gingivitis

Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease, the disease has yet to attack the bone. Since gingivitis is classified by the build-up of plaque. You will have a few warning signs to look out for, pay attention to your gums for any swelling, puffing, or bleeding.

Slight Periodontal Disease

If the infection has started to reach the bone, then you are in this stage. Once someone reaches this point, the disease is manageable even though it is irreversible.

Moderate Periodontal Disease

At this point, the bacteria has aggressively started to attack deeper parts of the bone and immune system by entering the bloodstream. The main treatment for this stage is deep cleaning which consists of root planing and tooth scaling.

Advanced Periodontal Disease

At this stage you are at risk of bone loss, the infection will be attacking even more vital areas. Advanced periodontal disease can also lead to gum recession, tooth loss, and maybe even partial or full dentures. If teeth are missing and the bone is compromised then dentures may not be an option for you.

Summary – 4 distinct phases

  1. Gingivitis – Bacteria & plaque build-up, this is reversible.
  2. Slight Periodontal Disease – Bacteria has reached the bone, no longer reversible 
  3. Moderate Periodontal Disease – The bacteria has become more aggressive, bone loss is now a risk.
  4. Advanced Periodontal Disease – Bone loss is now a serious risk, other health complications may occur.

How can you treat gum disease?

In the early stages of gingivitis, it can be a very easy affliction to reverse. Here are some things you can do if you are affected by mild gingivitis.

  • Better/more frequent oral care (See our ultimate guide here for tips).
  • Stop smoking/using tobacco products
  • Stop smoking marijuana products (any smoke is bad for teeth)
  • Eat less sugar and carb-heavy foods (bacteria eat carbs which produce plaque as a bi-product)
  • Drink less alcohol
  • Don’t eat after your last brush before you go to bed 
 

How can you treat advanced gingivitis or periodontitis?

If your gum disease has significantly advanced, then your options to treat it are more limited:
 
  • Deep cleaning your teeth (see our blog on root planing and teeth scaling here)
  • Antibiotic medications
  • Surgery
 
If you notice any gum disease symptoms you should see a dentist, if the symptoms persist over time even as you’re paying attention, then definitely see a dentist as soon as possible. It can be very possible that your gum disease is worse and more advanced than it may appear, your dentist can always give you the best solutions to follow.

Summary – How can you treat gum disease?

Ask your dentist for dental care routine tips and healthy living advice. Advanced gum disease needs to be treated at the dental clinic with advanced techniques.

How can gum disease be prevented?

Gingivitis can be prevented right at home through your regular oral care routine. Here are a couple of tips on how you can prevent gingivitis:

  • Increase your brushing, flossing, and mouthwash frequency
  • Go for a bi-annual (twice a year) checkup 
  • Eat a balanced diet
 
Don’t assume you know everything about your mouth because you read an online blog on it. If you’re concerned about something you should make a dentist appointment with your clinic (even if you’re already going bi-annually).

Frequently asked questions

Absolutely! Your gums can get puffy and bleed, you may not feel any pain at all. If you notice signs of gum disease, please get it checked even if there is no pain.

If it’s very advanced you may need to see a specialist, although, a general dentist will be able to handle most cases.

It depends on how advanced the gingivitis is. You will want to get your dentists advice before trying to take care of it yourself.

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