What are the stages of gum disease?

The stages of periodontal disease, an infection that affects the tissues and bone that support teeth, include:
  • Gingivitis develops as toxins and other plaque by-products irritate the gums, making them tender, swollen and likely to bleed easily.
  • Periodontitis occurs when plaque by-products lead to the destruction of the tissues that anchor teeth in the bone. As the disease progresses, pockets form, which allow more plaque to collect below the gum line. Tooth roots are exposed and may become at risk for decay and sensitive to cold and touch.
  • In advanced periodontitis, the teeth lose more support as the disease continues to destroy the periodontal ligament and bone. Unless treated, the affected teeth frequently become loose and may fall out or require removal by a dentist.
Gingivitis is the beginning of gum disease. Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums. It can be prevented with proper brushing and flossing and regular visits to the dentist. Left untreated it can lead to early, moderate, and advanced periodontal disease. The bone surrounding the teeth is destroyed with the progression of periodontal disease. The teeth become loose and may fall out or need to be extracted. See your dentist if you think you have gum disease. If treated early, you may be able to save your teeth. 
Carol Jahn
Gum disease is an infection caused by the bacteria in the plaque. In the first stage, gingivitis, only the soft tissue is affected, generally causing red, swollen, and bleeding tissue. This stage can be reversed often with a thorough dental cleaning and good daily home care that includes brushing and cleaning in between teeth with floss, an interdental brush or Water Flosser.

The second stage is periodontitis; it is more serious. In this stage the infection has progressed and some of the tissue and bone around the tooth has been destroyed. There are varying degrees of periodontal disease. Early stages can sometimes be treated through a dental hygiene treatment called scaling and root planing. A regular cleaning or prophy will not reach the infection and is not appropriate at this stage. A more severe case of periodontitis may require treatment by a specialist called a periodontist.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.