Gum Disease

What is gum disease?

Gum disease is preventable! It is also called “periodontal disease”, and is an infection of the gums and jawbone.

  • Gum disease can occur at any age.
  • It can be painless and can be difficult to detect in the early stages, except by a dental professional.
  • If left untreated, it may result in the loss of teeth.
  • Studies show that severe gum disease may increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, pneumonia, and the birth of premature and/or low birth weight babies.

Gum disease can also be a complication in diabetes.

What are the stages of gum disease?

  • The earliest stage of gum disease is gingivitis. Gums will be puffy, tender, red, and bleed easily. Gingivitis may be reversed by proper daily flossing and brushing.
  • If gingivitis is left untreated, it may progress to periodontitis.
  • Periodontitis is an advanced stage of gum disease, where the gums will pull away from the teeth. Bone and supporting tissues will be destroyed. Teeth will become loose, and may shift and change positions.
  • Untreated periodontitis eventually leads to the loss of teeth.

What causes gum disease?

  • Gum disease is caused by plaque and bacteria in the mouth. Plaque is a sticky film that forms on the teeth when teeth are not cleaned. Plaque is composed of germs (bacteria) that continuously grow on your teeth every day.
  • When plaque is not removed each day by brushing and flossing it builds up on the teeth. This causes the gums to turn red, and become puffy and tender. Gums will bleed easily, especially when brushed and/or flossed.
  • If plaque is not removed it will harden into tartar. Tartar hides around the teeth and under the gum line.
  • When tartar is not removed, “pockets” form in the gums around the teeth. Plaque and tartar continue to collect in these “pockets” and produce by-products that destroy the bone surrounding the teeth.

How do I prevent gum disease?

  • Plaque must be thoroughly removed every day:
    • Brush your teeth at least once per day; always before bed. Ideally the teeth should be brushed several times per day using a soft toothbrush. Ask your dental professional for advice on the proper way to brush your teeth.
    • Flossing is the only way to remove plaque from under the gum line and between teeth. A toothbrush cannot reach these areas.
    • Time your brushing: a proper brushing will take at least two minutes. For more information on how to brush and floss your teeth, click here.