We’re going to start with a statistic that acts as a bit of a spoiler — the leading cause of missing teeth in the United States is periodontitis, which is gum disease. While tooth loss occurs toward the final stages of gum disease, there’s a lot of damage this condition can wreak before this occurs.
To give you an idea about why you should never ignore gum disease, the team of dental experts here at Willow Glen Dental Specialists presents a typical timeline of periodontitis as it slowly robs you of your dental health.
Stage 1 of gum disease
Nearly half of Americans aged 30 years and older have gum disease and many are in the early stages, which is also called gingivitis.
With gingivitis, bacteria around your gum line cause inflammation in the soft tissues, which can make them tender and a little more prone to bleeding.
The good news here is that we can easily treat this early stage of gum disease with a simple cleaning during which we clear plaque and tartar away from your gums.
Stage 2 of gum disease
If you miss the first stage of gum disease, the bacteria can start to make their way up under your gums, where they create periodontal pockets. These pockets provide a place for the bacteria to set up where you can’t reach them, allowing them to do far more damage to your teeth and gums.
At this stage, we can turn to a deep clean, or a root planing and scaling procedure, in which we remove the bacteria and eliminate the pockets.
Stage 3 of gum disease
If your periodontitis goes untreated and advances to stage 3, the disease starts to erode the hard and soft tissue in your teeth and gums. At this point, your gums recede and they can become very sore. As well, your teeth might loosen as the disease attacks the connective tissues that support them.
With this moderate form of the disease, your treatment options become more aggressive and we often have to turn to gum surgery procedures, such as gum grafting or osseous surgery.
Stage 4 of gum disease
This advanced stage of gum disease can lead to gum infections, abscesses, and tooth loss. Not only can you lose teeth, the disease can eat away at the bone in your jaws, causing the lower half of your face to shrink in.
At this point, your treatment options are no longer preventive and focus more on cleanup. For example, we may have to extract teeth and then perform bone grafts so we can replace missing teeth with dental implants.
Our goal at this point is to prevent further bone loss as best we can and preserve the teeth, if any, that you have left.
As you can see, treating gum disease in its earliest stages makes sense on every level. A simple, economical cleaning during the first stage of gum disease can save you an enormous amount of money, time, and discomfort down the road.
If you have more questions about the progression of gum disease and the dangers of not treating the problem, please contact our office in San Jose, California, by calling 408-478-9081, or you can book an appointment with us online.