Types of Gum Disease: Stages, Factors & Related Conditions

  • Gum Disease Stages
  • Gum Disease Risk Factors
  • Conditions Related to Gum Disease
  • Gum Disease Treatments
  • Questions About Gum Disease

Gum Disease Stages

Chances are you or someone you know has a form of gum disease. In fact, 75% of Americans will develop gum disease in their lifetime. It’s important to distinguish that there isn’t just one form of gum disease, but multiple that may affect your overall oral health. If left untreated, certain forms of gum problems can increase your risk of developing other health concerns such as diabetes, and possible heart issues. It's important to educate yourself about the symptoms, risks, and treatments for gingivitis—and its more advanced stage, periodontitis—the two most common forms of gum disease.

Gingivitis is the most well-known form of gum disease—you’ve probably heard about it from your dental professional. But besides knowing the name, can you identify what gingivitis actually is?

Gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums, develops when plaque that contains bacteria slowly builds up on your teeth and gums. Given time, the toxins released by the built-up plaque begins to damage your teeth and gums, making them sensitive, irritated, and puffy. Prolonging gingivitis can lead to much more serious gum conditions.

If left untreated, gingivitis advances into periodontitis—a much more dangerous form of gum disease. Periodontal disease can cause an infection that destroys the bone supporting your teeth. It may result in tooth loss, bleeding gums, gum abscess and bad breath.

Gum Disease Risk Factors

For many people, mild bacterial gum infections won’t show any symptoms. But if you notice anything different about your mouth or teeth, be sure to tell your dental professional. Failing to maintain a proper oral care routine at home, puts you at major risk of developing gum disease. Gum problems are also caused by several other factors that have nothing to do with brushing your teeth. For example, tobacco users are 2X more likely to develop some form of gum disease.

Hormonal changes during puberty or pregnancy can cause gum disease. In fact, according to the CDC, approximately 60-75% of pregnant women will experience issues with periodontal disease.

Gum tissue problems are caused mainly by plaque—a semi-transparent, sticky film of bacteria that forms on your teeth and gums and can build up to create damaging toxins if you don't have a proper oral care regimen. The beginning stage of this plaque build-up is a characteristic of gingivitis. Plaque itself is caused naturally by the things you do every day, such as eating or drinking.

Conditions Related to Gum Disease

Conditions like diabetes and heart disease can also be impacted by gum problems. In fact, the CDC states that 95% of people who suffer from diabetes will experience some form of gum disease. Periodontal disease may also impact heart health and could even lead to cardiovascular disease if not treated.


Several types of health conditions contribute to poor healing of oral tissues. Based on information from the CDC, individuals with diabetes should always be aware that they are at risk for poor healing from any type of dental problem. People with diabetes suffer from different symptoms including dry mouth, which can promote tooth decay and gingivitis. Since people with diabetes are also prone to poor healing of oral tissues, gingivitis can be more difficult to treat, if it does occur. This is why a regular oral care routine and deep cleaning are especially important. If you have sensitive teeth or gums, choose a toothbrush or replacement brush head with soft bristles and gentle floss to minimize discomfort. If you have diabetes, be sure to tell your dental professional.


Leukaemia can increase your risk of developing any periodontal disease. In patients, gingivitis occurs when leukaemia cells infiltrate the gums, and gingivitis can become severe because the cancer reduces the body’s ability to fight the infection.


According to an article filed by the National Library of Medicine, hormonal changes during pregnancy can affect gum health. Blood flow may increase during this time causing gum swelling. It is important to pay special attention to your oral hygiene during pregnancy to better maintain your gum health—twice daily brushing, once daily flossing, and rinsing with an anti-gingivitis mouthwash can help keep your mouth in good condition.

Dry Mouth

A review from the National Library of Medicine states that certain medications or medical conditions may cause insufficient saliva production which can leave your mouth more vulnerable to periodontal diseases. Since saliva often helps to wash away plaque, when dry mouth occurs, plaque bacteria have a better chance of causing damage including tooth decay and gingivitis.


According to a review done by the National Library of Medicine, although it is rare, a condition called desquamative gingivitis can occur in older women after they go through menopause. This type of gingivitis can be extremely painful because the outermost layers of the gums pull away from the underlying tissue and expose nerves. The gums can become so loose that the outer layer can be rubbed away with the slightest touch of a cotton swab. Treatment of desquamative gingivitis involves working closely with a dental professional. If you are a woman still experiencing other symptoms of menopause, some type of hormone therapy may help. Or your dental professional may prescribe a corticosteroid in the form of pills to swallow or a paste that you apply directly to the gums.

Vitamin C Deficiency

Gum tissue conditions can have many causes, but don’t forget to consider poor nutrition. Inadequate vitamin C can promote bleeding gums that can develop into gingivitis if left untreated. Vitamin C also helps the body perform maintenance and repair on bones, teeth, and cartilage, and it also helps wounds heal.

Gum Disease Treatments

There are ways in which you can treat or severely limit gum disease. First and foremost, follow your dental hygienist’s or dentist’s instructions for regular oral care at home in order to get the most benefit out of your treatment. That means tooth brushing twice a day and daily flossing, plus regular visits to your dental professional for follow-ups and professional cleanings. If you experience any new problems following a regular oral care routine, ask your dental hygienist or dentist to recommend products that can make your routine easier. A toothbrush with a round brush head —like the Oral-B iO Series 9—and dental floss are designed with your gum health in mind.

When you want to treat gum problems, especially gingivitis, try these simple but effective methods:

  1. Brush twice a day, every day with a gum care toothpaste the Crest Gum Detoxify which neutralizes plaque bacteria and helps to reverse gingivitis
  2. Floss daily with string floss and pair it with an irrigator like the Oral-B Water Flosser Advanced which detoxifies* below the gum line to help eliminate plaque for healthier gums
  3. Rinse thoroughly with an anti-gingivitis mouthwash
  4. Visit your dental professional regularly

Mild to moderate gum disease can be cured—and prevented, for that matter—by adhering to a routine recommended by a dental professional. But for more advanced gum disease you may need gum surgery to retrieve affected gum tissue.

Questions About Gum Disease

Q: What does gum disease look like?

A: Gingivitis—and its later form, periodontitis—is formed by plaque build-up along the gum line. Though you may not notice anything in mild cases of gum disease, sensitive teeth, bleeding or swollen gums are the most common warning signs that something needs to be addressed.


Q: Can gum disease be reversed?

A: Early gum disease, specifically gingivitis, can be reversed by adhering to a strict oral care regimen. However, periodontitis can only be treated by a dental professional. With an electric toothbrush and its deep cleaning mode you can thoroughly brush your teeth and prevent plaque build up.

Q: What exactly is gum disease?

A: The American Dental Association (ADA) defines gum disease as "an infection of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth." What does this mean to you? It means that gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.

Q: How do I know if I have gum disease?

A: There are several tell-tale signs of gum tissue problems. They include:

  • Bleeding gums (especially when you brush and floss)
  • Gum sensitivity
  • Tender, swollen gums
  • A receding gum line
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Loose teeth

Q: Is gum disease inevitable?

A: Fortunately, it's not. While we all have plaque (it's naturally occurring), there are several easy steps you can take every day to help keep your smile healthy for life. And while you might be familiar with each step, you might not realize how important it is that you do all the steps together, every day.

Q: What if I think I have gum disease?

A: Don't worry, you're not alone. More than 80 percent of adults have some form of gum disease. In most cases, you can help reverse, and even protect against its effects. So how do you treat gum disease? Great question! A recent study showed the gum health benefits of the following routine, where 100% of gingivitis patients transitioned to a healthy gingival state**:

  • Brush teeth at least twice a day with the Oral-B iO Series 9 Rechargeable Toothbrush. Its dentist-inspired round brush head expertly cleans with micro-vibrations to remove more plaque than a manual toothbrush.
  • Pair the Oral-B iO with a toothpaste containing Stannous Fluoride like Crest Gum Detoxify, its activated foam formula removes plaque bacteria in hard-to-reach areas to better reverse gingivitis.
  • Floss at least once a day to remove more plaque and debris from tight spaces. The Oral-B Pro-Health Advanced Floss slides up to 50% more easily in tight spaces than other types of floss. To further improve your gum health, supplement your regular flossing routine with the Oral-B Water Flosser Advanced, its unique Oxyjet Technology helps eliminate plaque bacteria* for healthier gums.
  • Swish morning and night with a rinse containing Cetylpyridinium Chloride (CPC), like Crest Pro-Health Multi-Protection Mouthwash which helps protect your mouth from gingivitis and plaque with 0% alcohol.

* Helps reduce plaque bacteria and inflammatory components associated with gingivitis, when used as an adjunct to brushing, flossing and regular professional care.
**Adam R,1 Grender J,2 Timm H,1 Qaqish J,3 Goyal CR.3 1. Procter & Gamble Service GmbH, Kronberg, Germany. 2. The Procter & Gamble Co., Mason, OH, USA. 3. All Sum, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. Data on file, 2020. Anti-Gingivitis and Anti-Plaque Efficacy of an Oral Hygiene Routine including Oral-B® iO Oscillating-Rotating Electric Toothbrush, Stannous Fluoride Dentifrice, CPC Rinse and Floss: Results from a 12-week Trial


This blog has been reviewed and approved
by Dr Robert Lee, a dental professional of 35 years

Dr. Lee

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