Advanced gum disease, called periodontitis, affects almost half of Americans over the age of 30, according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As common as the condition is, tooth loss is often the unfortunate outcome when left untreated. But today, with so many successful treatment options available for advanced periodontal disease, losing teeth doesn't have to be your next step with an unhealthy gumline.
Gingivitis to Periodontitis
Gum disease is a sneaky, progressive disease, and here's why: The first stage, called gingivitis, occurs when bacterial plaque is not thoroughly removed from your teeth. Red, swollen and bleeding gums are the telltale signs of this infection, but the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) assures that this condition is easily reversible with daily brushing and flossing – and a professional cleaning at the dentist's office.
When left untreated, however, gingivitis can progress into a more serious condition called periodontitis. Toxins from this buildup of bacterial plaque not only affect your gum tissue, but also the bone and ligaments that support your teeth. As the infection causes disease to the bone and supporting tissues, your teeth may eventually become loose and need to be treated surgically or removed. But even advanced cases of periodontal disease don't have to progress to this point.
Signs & Symptoms
The symptoms of gingivitis are somewhat non-specific and manifest in the gum tissue as the classic signs of inflammation:
Bright red or purple gums
Gums that are tender or painful to the touch
Bleeding gums or bleeding after brushing
Additionally, the stippling that normally exists on the gum tissue of some individuals will often disappear and the gums may appear shiny when the gum tissue becomes swollen and stretched over the inflamed underlying connective tissue. The accumulation may also emit an unpleasant odor.
When the gingiva are swollen, the epithelial lining of the gingival crevice becomes ulcerated and the gums will bleed more easily with even gentle brushing, and especially when flossing.
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