Gum Disease Stages and How It’s Treated

Gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) happens when your gums become infected with bacteria. There are various gum disease stages, each with its worst (and best) case scenarios.

Let’s go through each stage of gum disease so you and your dentist can determine the best way to treat it and prevent future problems. 

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What is Gum Disease?


Gum disease usually starts because of a poor oral hygiene routine. As these bad habits progress, your oral health starts to deteriorate. 

Think about the gums surrounding your teeth. When your gums are healthy, they’re pink, plump, and firm. They protect your bone, nerves, and enamel by keeping everything rooted in place.

When you neglect daily teeth brushing and flossing, bacteria (or plaque) start to collect in your mouth. It comes from the foods you eat to the air to breathe.

You’ve probably had teeth “sweaters” before; that fuzzy film that forms on your teeth when you go too long without brushing. Imagine how much “fuzz” there is after multiple days of not bushing.

If you have plaque buildup, it hardens and becomes tartar. When you finally do brush, that tartar doesn’t simply come off.

Instead, what happens is that tartar starts to seep under your gums where you can’t reach. It starts to infect your gums, causing them to feel sensitive, bleed, and sometimes become swollen. 

In worst-case scenarios, your gum line will start to recede and form “pockets.” This leads to tooth loss. 

This is why going to the dentist twice a year for a professional cleaning is vital to your oral health. We clean those hard-to-reach areas to ensure that plaque doesn’t infect your gums and cause gum disease. 

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Gum Disease Stages

Stages of periodontal desease

Now, does everyone need to worry about potentially getting gum disease? It looks that way.

47.2% of adults aged 30 years and older have some form of gum disease, according to the CDC

Considering there are varying stages for gum disease, you’ll want to know how to spot the differences. 

Depending on which stage of gum disease you have, your symptoms can be mild to severe.

Stage 1: Gingivitis

Your “gingiva” is the part of your gums closest to your teeth. So when plaque or tartar starts to form on your teeth, it hits this part of your gums first. 

It’s best to catch gum disease at this stage when it’s the most treatable. Some of your symptoms may include:

  • Inflammation
  • Bleeding gums
  • Pain while chewing
  • Bad breath

Stage 2: Early Periodontal Disease

When we talk about gum disease, most of our patients are only aware of the mildest case (gingivitis) and the advanced gum disease stages.

By learning to recognize these in-between phases, you may be able to save your gums (and your money) by taking action immediately. 

Early periodontal disease happens when your gums begin to form those “pockets” we mentioned earlier. 

From there, bacteria, tartar, and even food begin to collect in between your gums and teeth. This leads to infection.

Symptoms at this stage include:

  • Sensitive teeth (especially with hot or cold foods)
  • Tender gums
  • Receding gum line
  • Mouth sores

Stage 3: Moderate Periodontitis

So your teeth are sensitive, and your gums are sore, and you still haven’t gone to the dentist? 

Welcome to the moderate stage of periodontal disease.

Don’t let the name fool you. This excess tartar buildup (which we now know can’t be swept away with a magic toothbrush) can cause symptoms such as:

  • Further receding gum lines
  • Loose teeth
  • Complete tooth loss

Stage 4: Advanced Periodontal Disease

Left untreated, the infection from the debris in your gums will spread. Not only can it potentially affect your entire mouth, but the infection will likely spread beneath your gums.

Now your bones and nerves are at risk of infection. 

Out of all the gum disease stages, this is your worst-case scenario. Depending on how much the infection has spread, you could be looking at:

  • Abscessed tooth
  • Bone loss
  • Nerve damage
  • Expensive dental work

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How Gum Disease is Treated

Each stage of gum disease is treated differently. 

On the one hand, if you’re at the gingivitis stage, an updated oral hygiene routine and a professional teeth cleaning can help reverse this infection

However, if you’re in Stage 4 of this disease, you may need restorative work such as a root canal, bone grafting, or even dental implants. 

Here are your treatment options for gum disease:

  1. At Home Care: With gingivitis, the plaque buildup is at the base of your gums. You can typically treat this at home with an updated oral hygiene routine. However, you’ll need to be diagnosed by your dentist, so they’ll also provide a cleaning to treat areas you can’t reach. 
  2. Deep cleaning: Your dentist might recommend a deep cleaning and possibly a scale and root planning treatment to get the tartar in the pockets.
  3. Root canal: In advanced periodontal disease stages, a tooth extraction and root canal may be necessary to preserve the rest of your oral health. Your dentist should recommend a crown, dentures, partial, or dental implant in place of your extracted tooth. 
  4. Dental bone graft: A bone graft replaces the bone damaged from the disease. This helps add volume and density, so your mouth isn’t restricted.
  5. Gum surgery: Several gum surgeries are available, from gum grafts to laser services. It’s pretty standard and is even assigned for cosmetic purposes (e.g., getting rid of a “gummy” smile).

Your dentist may also recommend that you quit smoking or ask you to talk to your doctor about changing certain medications since these may progress the infection.


Is gum disease contagious?

No, gum disease is not contagious. It depends on your individual oral health regime. 

However, smoking, medications, diabetes, and hormonal changes can make you more susceptible to gum disease. 

Is there a gum disease home remedy?

At the earliest stages, the best gum disease home remedy is a rigorous brushing routine. Brush twice a day, floss in between meals, and use fluoride toothpaste. If you hate flossing, consider getting a Waterpik.

Are you concerned about your gum health? Fill out an appointment request at Dental Innovations of Virginia.

Dental Innovations of Virginia

We’re located at 19490 Sandridge Way, Suite 160, Lansdowne, VA 20176.

Our hours are Monday through Friday from 9am to 6pm.

 Text us 24/7 at 703-454-5656 to schedule an appointment, or to ask us a question. You can also send us photos via text messages!