How Periodontal (Gum) Disease Begins & Progresses

Posted on Apr 12, 2017 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Periodontal (gum) disease begins without obvious symptoms. This is likely why it is allowed to progress. Yet, even when gum disease is fully underway, the warning signs are often ignored. For example, some people assume that seeing blood in the sink when brushing is a sign they are doing a good job rather than a symptom of inflamed gum tissues. (It’s not!)

Acquiring gum disease is easier than you might imagine. The following is the typical process of gum disease:

•  Accumulation Of Oral Bacteria: Our mouths are a warm, moist environment. Every day, it takes in an enormous amount of bacteria. Bacteria is on food, lipstick, and even the toothbrush we use. Bacteria in our bodies, including our mouths, is a fact of life and something we can process – at certain levels. The problem begins when too much bacteria accumulate.

•  Plaque: Without regular and thorough brushing, flossing, saliva flow and diet, oral bacteria can reproduce rapidly in the mouth. Their accumulation over the course of a day forms a sticky film you feel on teeth. This film, known as plaque, can form in just the brief time between your morning tooth brushing and evening brushing.

•  Tartar (or Calculus): In about 48 hours, sticky plaque film can harden into tartar. Tartar (also known as calculus) is a hardened form of oral bacteria that attaches to teeth. Tartar will continually reproduce and amass as oral bacteria subsist on tooth enamel and gum tissue.

•  Gingivitis: This is the first stage of gum disease. At this point, gum tissue is under attack. Gums are tender and bleed easily when brushing. You may have an aching sensation in some areas and your breath will be frequently bad. By taking effective measures at this point, you have an opportunity to restore your gums to a healthy state. Halting gingivitis at this point is important to avoid its progression to gum disease.

•  Periodontal (Gum) Disease: At this level, the gums are inflamed and tender. Gum tissues will darken in color and begin to pull away from some teeth, exposing darker root portions. Your breath will be frequently offensive. As gum disease worsens, pus pockets form on gum tissues and teeth will loosen. Gum disease can lead to the need to remove some teeth. It is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss.

An estimated 47% of American adults have some level of gum disease. As devastating as tooth loss can be, research has been associated the bacteria of gum disease with serious health problems elsewhere in the body.

Oral bacteria can become bloodborne through tears in diseased gum tissues and has been shown to cause inflammatory triggers. This systemic inflammation has been associated with heart attacks, stroke, high blood pressure, some cancers, arthritis, diabetes, preterm babies and impotency. Yet, gum disease is one of the most preventable of all diseases with simple measures.

Re-examine your at-home oral care routine. Twice daily brushing, daily flossing, drinking plenty of water and limiting snacking, sweets and caffeine help to keep your mouth healthy between regular dental check-ups and cleanings. And, those check-ups are vital to keeping a healthy smile. During these visits, accumulated tartar can be removed and signs of early gum disease can be noted.

Good oral health practices can save you much in time and money by avoiding procedures to repair problems. Too, keeping a healthy mouth means you are helping to protect your overall health by lowering risks associated with oral bacteria. With proper care, you can easily enjoy a lifetime of healthy smiles.

If you are experiencing symptoms of gum disease, call 828-274-9440. As a specialist in all levels of gum disease, we can help you restore your oral health.

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