The Stages of Gum Disease: Gingivitis and Periodontitis

October 24, 2017 — by Kenneth W. Coffey, DDS
Tags: Gum Disease Restorative Dentistry

Illustration of the stages of gum diseaseGum disease is the most devastating of all oral health problems. It is the number-one cause of tooth loss among adults, and it has been linked to a variety of other diseases and disorders, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. While restorative dentistry can help to repair much of the damage done by gum disease, it is far better to take preventive measures to keep gum disease from occurring in the first place.

In order to take full advantage of preventive dentistry, however, you must understand that gum disease does not always produce obvious symptoms in its earliest stages, when it is easiest to treat. Indeed, you may think that your gums are perfectly healthy when, in fact, you have gingivitis, the first, and less severe, stage of gum disease. Dr. Kenneth W. Coffey discusses the stages of gum disease during appointments at his Orland Park, IL cosmetic, restorative, and general dentistry practice so that patients understand the importance of routine preventive appointments. It is only by visiting the dentist at least twice a year, as recommended by the American Dental Association, that you can be sure to keep your mouth healthy and free from gum disease.

Roughly 75 percent of all adults have gum disease. We encourage you to beat the odds. Schedule your initial consultation with Dr. Kenneth W. Coffey today.

Gum Disease: A Two-stage Disease

Gum disease can be broken down into two basic stages: gingivitis and periodontitis. Dr. Coffey is able to provide treatment for gum disease in either stage - it really is never too late. However, as with any other oral health condition, the sooner you seek treatment, the better.


Gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease, is an extremely subtle condition. You may not even realize that your gums are unhealthy if you have gingivitis, which is why it is so important to schedule twice-annual oral exams. If you experience any symptoms at all, they might include slight bleeding when you brush or floss, mild discoloration, or tenderness to the touch.

Gingivitis is caused by the buildup of plaque. While you can remove a lot of plaque through brushing and flossing, you cannot remove it all. Over time, the plaque that you do not remove will harden into a substance called tartar, which can only be removed by dental professionals. Tartar buildup will inevitably result in gingivitis. Therefore, regular dental visits are necessary to avoiding gum disease.


Periodontitis is the second and far more severe stage of gum disease. Unlike gingivitis, periodontitis will exhibit clear symptoms. Unfortunately, by the time these symptoms appear, damage to your mouth will already have been done.

Periodontitis comprises several stages of its own:

  • The gum and jawbone tissues that support the teeth begin to deteriorate.
  • The gums then start to pull away from the teeth.
  • Pockets form between the teeth and the gums. Bacteria can access the jawbone and tooth roots via these pockets.
  • Infection starts to spread throughout the mouth.
  • The teeth become loose, which causes orthodontic problems.
  • Eventually, teeth will start to fall out.

Remember, it is never too late to seek treatment for gum disease and prevent further damage from occurring.

Learn More about the Stages of Gum Disease

To learn more about the stages of gum disease, please contact our cosmetic, restorative, and general dentistry practice today.

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