Dental decay and gum disease are common problems that most people will face in some form or another during their lives. In this post, we’ll be outlining how both of these problems progress, and which dental services are most appropriate for all stages of each. It’s important to get these issues resolved as soon as possible, as later stages of each problem have shown to correlate with serious health issues like heart attack and stroke.
Gum disease results from plaque making its way underneath the gum line. This is why it’s so important to not only brush your teeth, but to brush your gum line as well. In fact, a better way of putting it would be to “massage” the gum line, as the gums can bleed rather easily.
However, large amounts of blood when you brush your teeth is not normal. This is an indicator of gum disease. You may have heard of this disease referred to as “gingivitis”, “periodontitis”, or “periodontal disease”. This can be true or false, depending on the stages of gum disease. So, let’s define our terms:
- Periodontal disease – an infection of the gums that leads to swelling and bleeding
- Gum disease – a synonym for “periodontal disease”
- Gingivitis – the beginning stage of gum disease
- Periodontitis – an advanced stage of gum disease
When gum disease begins, it usually isn’t too painful. Most people notice excessive amounts of blood in the sink when they brush, and maybe some slight discomfort. At this point, the problem is relatively easy to reverse, and requires more regular and proper brushing, flossing, and gum cleanings with your dentist.
When gingivitis progresses into periodontitis, you will likely begin to feel a lot of discomfort. The swelling that results from periodontal disease can become so severe that the gums begin to recede from the gum line. This can also lead to loose teeth and tooth loss.
At this stage, dental treatments may involve scaling and root planing.
Dental decay often begins as a slow process, but then can quickly progress. Dental decay starts with:
This is the result of plaque wearing down tooth enamel, the protective outer layer of the tooth. This is a reversible condition, remedied by simply brushing and flossing more regularly.
First Stage Tooth Decay
This is a lesion that forms on the tooth as a result of demineralization, and indicates that plaque is beginning to make its way to the dentin, the hard part of the tooth. At this stage, the process is still reversible, but may require professional dental cleanings.
Once plaque forms a hole in the dentin, you officially have a cavity. Unfortunately, there is no natural way to reverse this process, and a dental filling is likely the most appropriate option.
When cavities aren’t taken care of, plaque can infect the tooth pulp – the soft tissue under the dentin that contains the tooth root. This results in inflammation and swelling of the tooth pulp, which is very painful. Your dentist will likely perform a root canal at this stage.
If pulpitis isn’t solved, an inflamed pocket of infection will form near the tooth root and often manifests at the gum line. It is a pimple-like growth and is extremely painful. Your dentist can drain the abscess and perform a root canal.