How Gum Disease Develops and the Importance of Seeing the Dentist

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Last week’s post focused on the body’s interconnectedness, and how unhealthy gums can lead to hosts of health problems in seemingly separate areas of the body, like the heart or lungs. This week, we’ll be focusing on the stages of gum disease, and the importance and efficacy of seeing a professional and treating gum conditions early.

The first and least serious stage of gum disease, as stated in the last post, is gingivitis. Gingivitis is painless and manifests in red, inflamed gums that bleed from brushing or flossing. It also causes a buildup of tartar on the teeth. The common kind, supragingival tartar, is a whitish yellow and it forms from the minerals within healthy saliva. A dentist or periodontist can easily scrape it off to boost oral health.

Subgingival tartar is more serious and forms under the gum. It is black and difficult to detect and remove, even for dentists. To avoid the buildup of any sort of tartar, proper brushing, and regular visits (every six months) to an oral health practitioner are key. If your gums bleed from daily dental care, it is possible you have a mild case of gingivitis! Luckily gingivitis can be healed and reversed through proper dental care. If it is ignored it can worsen, and develop into the more serious gum disease, periodontitis.

Periodontitis occurs in four stages. The first is the initial stage. As any sustained inflammatory response does, the inflammation in the gums deteriorates the affected areas. Specifically, it damages the periodontal ligament, which joins the root of the tooth to the socket. Damage to these ligaments is permanent. Once gingivitis has developed into periodontitis, it is permanent and cannot be reversed. But it can be managed with the help of a periodontist with treatments like debridement. Debridement involves an intensive and invasive procedure to remove bacteria and tartar from the gums and the roots of the teeth. The symptoms at this stage are almost indiscernible from gingivitis, except for slightly more inflamed gums.

The secondary stage is moderate and occurs if the initial periodontitis is left untreated. The sole difference between moderate and initial periodontitis is the extent of the damage to the periodontal ligament. Moderate means further damage to the ligaments, which a periodontist would be able to identify on diagnosis. As said prior, all damage to the ligaments is permanent.

The third stage is severe. It is characterized mainly by the possibility of losing teeth. While pain is still uncommon, the afflicted will notice a foul taste and smell from their mouth. They will also likely sense bite changes and loosening of their teeth. Teeth will also appear longer from the receding of the gums. Biting down at this stage has the potential to cause localized swelling and abscesses, which can fill with pus. At this stage surgery and even replacing natural teeth with artificial (like dentures or dental implants) may be the only solution. It works on a case-to-case basis, and each person’s situation is different.

The fourth stage occurs when the condition is the severity to which patients have often lost multiple teeth. The ligaments could be so deteriorated that they cannot withstand the force of a bite. Teeth and their dentition will showcase significant drifting and splaying. People will often consider removing all their teeth at this point and replacing them with implants. It is imperative to see a periodontist before scheduling a removal and implantation. Once teeth are gone, they cannot be replaced. Health effects outside the body begin at this stage as well, like the aforementioned heart attacks or asthma attacks.

The invisibility and great effects of gum disease make it imperative to see a professional and maintain proper gum health. Periodontitis also comes in three stages of development, A: slow progressing, B: moderately progressing and C: quickly progressing. You must see a professional if you think something is wrong! It is vital to ensure you have healthy and happy pearly whites for years to come.

Works Cited

“How Does Periodontal Disease Affect My Body?” Loop Perio.

Loesche, Walter J. “Microbiology of Dental Decay and Periodontal Disease.” National Library of Medicine, U.S. Government.

The Mayo Clinic Staff. “Periodontitis.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 24 Feb. 2023,

Rathee, Manu, and Prachi Jain. “Gingivitis.” National Library of Medicine, U.S. Government, 27 Mar. 2023.

“Stages of Gum Disease.” EOPerio and Dental Implants.