Gum disease is a condition that results in inflamed gums and can get serious enough to affect your teeth to the point of deterioration. The severity of the disease falls into three different categories from least to most dangerous: gingivitis, periodontitis, and advanced periodontitis. The onset of gum disease can begin as a result of poor oral health care that allows the buildup of harmful bacteria, plaque, and tartar.


As previously stated, gingivitis is the least severe form of gum disease. As such, pain or discomfort from this type is usually little to nonexistent. This means that it can be difficult for you to determine its presence alone, without the examination of a dentist. Symptoms of gingivitis are as follows:

  • Swollen, tender, or red-colored gums
  • Gums that move away from the tooth
  • Gums that bleed easily from brushing or flossing
  • Loose teeth
  • Continuous bad breath/bad taste in mouth
  • Teeth that are overly sensitive to hot or cold temperatures

It’s important to note that not all gingivitis will lead to more severe forms such as periodontitis; however, factors like smoking, age, genetic predisposition, stress, pregnancy, certain medication use, HIV infection, poor hygiene, and more can contribute to the development of gingivitis and may further agitate it to periodontitis. If you have any questions or concerns about the factors in your life that might result in gingivitis, don’t hesitate to speak with one of our staff! Treating gingivitis is as simple as professional cleanings and more attentive at-home care and can be prevented the very same way.

Periodontitis and Advanced Periodontitis

Gingivitis that goes untreated develops into what is called periodontitis. The build-up of plaque extends beyond the teeth and can begin to grow below the line of your gums, spreading toxins to cause further irritation. Tissues and bone that support the teeth can then begin to break down due to your body’s response to the toxins and your gums begin to separate from the teeth they support. This, in turn, causes pockets to form in the gums, pockets that can grow larger and cause teeth to loosen. Additionally, as the gums have pulled away from the teeth and the pockets develop, there leaves more room for debris to collect and an infection to grow. All of this attributes to the body breaking down the gum tissue and bone of the surrounding area in order to combat the disease, which is why periodontitis can lead ultimately to tooth loss. The excessive erosion of the bone and gum tissue is considered the more advanced periodontitis.


The way we diagnose gum disease is by looking at gum bleeding, firmness, pocket depth, swelling, teeth sensitivity, movement, alignment, and by examining your jawbone. This is done during routine dental visits. Dental examinations coupled with excellent at-home oral care are essential to combat gum disease or prevent it before it can even form. Most plaque on the surface can be removed with a simple professional cleaning and consistent brushing and flossing can help prevent more from building.

If you believe you may have gum disease or would like an examination, contact our Portland, ME office today! We would be happy to schedule an appointment with Dr. Lawlor.