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The Stages of Gum Disease
illustration depicting stages of gum disease

Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss among American adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of individuals aged 30 or older have some form of periodontal disease. This serious condition not only affects the oral cavity – but it can also cause infection to develop throughout the body. In fact, gum disease has long been linked to serious health concerns such as heart disease, stroke, dementia, and more.

Learning to recognize gum disease symptoms is the first step toward prevention. Here, our team at Modern Dental of Manhattan explores the three stages of gum disease and explains the types of periodontal therapies used to treat the condition during each of these phases.

Stage One: Gingivitis

Gingivitis is characterized by red, puffy, or tender gums. Inflammation is caused by plaque and tartar that has been left on the teeth. If not removed through routine brushing and flossing, plaque continues to accumulate – as a result, it causes gum irritation.

Treating Gingivitis

During this earliest stage of gum disease, the infection is still somewhat superficial – as it only affects the gums and not the bone underneath. When treated promptly, gingivitis can be reversed with a professional dental cleaning and improved brushing and flossing at home.

Stage Two: Periodontitis

If gingivitis remains untreated, the infection in the gums will travel down to the supporting jawbone. The infection begins to erode the bone tissue around the necks of the teeth, causing tiny pockets to form. Bacteria and plaque become trapped in these areas, which are impossible to reach with a toothbrush and floss. In addition to red and swollen gums, you may notice bad breath or a bad taste – and your gums may bleed when you brush or floss.

Treating Mild to Moderate Periodontitis

A dental cleaning and proper home care is always a good thing, but it’s not enough to reverse periodontitis. At this stage, the infection is too far below the gums to be reached with a toothbrush and floss.

To treat moderate to advanced periodontitis, your dentist will likely recommend a deep dental cleaning, performed under local anesthesia. We also offer sedation options for those who want to be more relaxed and comfortable during this treatment. 

Also referred to as scaling and root planing, this procedure cleans out plaque and bacteria that have accumulated deep in the pockets around your teeth. Next, your dentist or hygienist smooths the root surfaces of the teeth to deter further plaque from adhering.

Stage Three: Advanced Periodontitis

If gum disease continues to go unchecked, the condition will progress. Advanced periodontitis is the final stage of periodontal disease in which the teeth’s supporting structures are completely destroyed. As the periodontal pockets continue to deepen, the teeth become more mobile – and in many cases, they can fall out. This stage of gum disease is often characterized by pus or discharge at the gumline, gum recession, bad breath, and changes in your bite.

Treating Advanced Periodontitis

Today, there are a couple of different options for treating advanced periodontitis. In many cases, we can perform LANAP (Laser Assisted New Attachment Procedure). This treatment uses laser light energy to kill bacteria beneath the gums, eliminating infected tissue while keeping healthy tissue intact. The laser also cauterizes and seals the periodontal pocket to reduce the risk of recontamination.

In severe cases, your dentist may recommend traditional periodontal surgery. During this treatment, incisions are created along the gum line, and the gums are temporarily moved back so the dentist can see the teeth roots. After cleaning out all of the infection – and in some cases reshaping the bone – the gums are repositioned and sutured into place.

Contact Our Practice to Learn More

As you can see, gum disease is much easier (and more affordable) to treat in the early stages. If you notice any warning signs, such as red, swollen gums or bad breath, schedule a consultation at our Manhattan practice. Contact us online or call our office at (212) 758-1000.