Early Periodontal Disease: Everything You Should Know

Mar 21, 2024 | Dental tips, Gum issues

The gums are a critical part of your dental formula, healthy gums are responsible for holding the teeth in place perfectly. However, if your gums get infected, they may struggle to perform their function. This infection is commonly referred to as periodontitis.

What is Early Periodontal Disease?

The onset of gum disease is what dentists call early periodontitis or early periodontal disease. This early state marks the beginning of what could become a serious gum infection that starts to damage soft gum tissue around the teeth if left untreated(1).

Before diving into the early signs of gum disease let’s first discuss the causes of early periodontal disease. 

Causes of Early Periodontal Disease

1. Bacteria Overgrowth

Research studies suggest that early-stage gum disease begins with accelerated accumulation of bacteria in the mouth(2). While 700+ bacteria species live in the mouth of a healthy person (i.e., on the tongue, tonsillar area, and soft and hard palate for mutually beneficial reasons), this balance must be maintained perfectly(3)

Any imbalances in the bacteria (an increase in volume or complexities) mark the onset of initial periodontitis. A continued imbalance results in a full-blown problem and other diseases.

2. Poor Oral Hygiene Habits

The underlying cause of bacteria overgrowth in the mouth is a poor oral hygiene routine. To avoid this, it is recommended to brush at least twice daily and floss once daily. You also need to drink enough water as part of your oral hygiene practices.

3. Lifestyle Habits

Some habits, such as smoking and chewing tobacco can make it hard to maintain a healthy oral bacterial balance. Consuming tobacco products can increase the risk of gum disease because such habits slow down the body’s immune response, making it hard for the body to stop an impending gum infection. The habits can also make it harder for the gums to heal(4)

4. Some Medical Conditions

Some health problems can kickstart early periodontal disease. Some fat cells among obese persons are known to produce many hormones and chemical signals that increase inflammation in the body, lowering a person’s immunity in the process. This, in turn, increases susceptibility to early periodontal disease(5). There are other conditions like rheumatoid arthritis also known to increase the risk of periodontal disease(6)

5. Certain Medications

There are hundreds of medications linked to symptoms like dry mouth, gum swelling, and oral bacterial overgrowth. Examples include seizure medication like phenytoin, immunosuppressants like cyclosporine, and blood pressure medication like diltiazem, verapamil, and nifedipine(7)

6. Other Causes

Lack of a balanced diet or poor nutrition (that causes Vitamin C deficiency) can also slow down the immune response and increase the risks of getting gum disease. You need a healthy diet to fight gum disease. Hormonal changes can also increase the risks of early periodontitis.

Stages of Periodontal Disease 

Periodontal disease is depicted in four main stages, from the beginning stages of gum disease to advanced periodontitis:

a. The Beginning: Earliest Stage of Periodontal Disease

Gingivitis and Stages of Gingivitis

Gingivitis is the earliest stage and mildest form of gum disease. It’s a less severe form of periodontitis that happens before you start losing bone mass around the teeth. The main signs of gingivitis include(8):

  • Bad breath
  • Gum inflammation or swollen gums
  • “Sticky film” on the teeth
  • Slight tooth mobility
  • Red gums that can bleed easily
  • Tooth sensitivity to cold/hot food
  • Gum tenderness
  • Gum pain (Especially when chewing)

Gingivitis is an inflammatory response to problems like plaque and tartar buildup. When there is a bacterial imbalance in the mouth, plaque is the byproduct released when bacteria feed on food particles in the mouth. When plaque buildup continues over time and hardens, tartar is the end product.

The stages of gingivitis are dictated by a person’s oral dental hygiene routine. If you don’t brush and floss as you should, the buildup will continue advancing. However, it is worth noting that gingivitis is reversible. If you maintain good oral hygiene (regular brushing with fluoride toothpaste and flossing) and go for at least two dental visits a year, you can reverse the problem including gum tissue regeneration.

b. Mid to Advanced Stages of Periodontal Disease

If you don’t seek treatment for early periodontal disease, the problem will progress. Other types of gum disease are discussed below based on severity.

Mild, Moderate, & Severe Periodontitis

After gingivitis, other advanced gum disease stages (and corresponding symptoms of gum disease) are:

  • Mild periodontitis (caused when gingivitis isn’t treated). Mild periodontitis causes some bone loss around the teeth.
  • Moderate periodontitis advances bone loss and bacteria continue eroding soft tissue supporting the teeth. Gum recession is evident at this stage. Other symptoms include tender and sore gums.
  • Severe or advanced periodontitis is the last and most severe stage of periodontal disease. This stage has symptoms like bleeding gums, loose teeth or wobbly teeth, crooked teeth and/or eventual tooth loss, pus, infection on the gum line, and halitosis (chronic bad breath).

Why Should You Care About Early Periodontal Disease

Reversing gingivitis doesn’t just restore your oral health, it also saves you from contracting serious health problems. For example:

  • Gum infections affecting tooth roots can spread to the bloodstream and affect vital body organs like the kidneys, brain, and lungs.
  • There are links between gum disease and respiratory system diseases.
  • There’s a recent study linking oral bacteria (P.gingivalis) to chronic illnesses like Alzheimer’s(9)

Addressing early periodontal disease is therefore critical for oral care and overall health.

Early Treatment of Gum Disease in Toronto

If you suspect you are in the early stages of periodontal disease because you exhibit the symptoms discussed above, act immediately. Besides brushing, flossing, and using antimicrobial mouthwash regularly, visit a renowned dental clinic immediately for a checkup and deep cleaning procedures or dental cleaning services.

Annex Dentistry is one such dental clinic in Toronto with early periodontal treatment and many other dental services including periodontal therapies and surgical procedures. Get in touch for custom treatment plans. You can also contact Annex Dentistry in case of any questions on periodontal disease and other general and cosmetic dental treatments. You can email [email protected] or call: 416-962-4022.



[1] Mayoclinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/periodontitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20354473

[2] WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/gingivitis-periodontal-disease

[3] News Medical Life Sciences: https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-Microorganisms-Naturally-Live-in-the-Mouth.aspx#:~:text=Over%20700%20bacterial%20species%20co,tongue%2C%20and%20even%20tonsillar%20area.

[4] CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/diseases/periodontal-gum-disease.html#:~:text=Tobacco%20use%20in%20any%20form,your%20risk%20for%20gum%20disease.

[5] National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5813989/

[6] National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4539505/

[7] WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/oral-side-effects-of-medications

[8] Cleveland Clinic: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/10950-gingivitis-and-periodontal-disease-gum-disease

[9] News Medical Life Sciences: https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-Microorganisms-Naturally-Live-in-the-Mouth.aspx#:~:text=Over%20700%20bacterial%20species%20co,tongue%2C%20and%20even%20tonsillar%20area.