What is Gum Disease?

Gum disease is also called "periodontal" disease. The word periodontal means “around the tooth”.  Gum disease attacks the gums and the bone that support the teeth.  It is caused by the germs in plaque, which is a sticky film of food debris, bacteria, and saliva. Plaque can be removed by proper oral hygiene.

Tartar, also called calculus, is a very hard deposit which forms on the teeth over time. It cannot be brushed or flossed away and can only be removed by dental professionals. If it is not removed, tartar attracts more plaque. If tartar and plaque are not removed, the bacteria begin to produce acids which eat away at the gums and the bone which support the teeth in the socket. Eventually the teeth get loose and have to be pulled.

Four out of five adults have gum disease and don’t know it! Most people are not aware of it because often there are no outward signs and the disease is usually painless until it is too late to save the teeth.

Not only is it the number one reason for tooth loss, research suggests that there may be a link between gum disease and other diseases such as heart disease, stroke, bacterial pneumonia, diabetes,  and increased risk during pregnancy.  Researchers are determining if inflammation and bacteria associated with gum disease affect these systemic diseases and conditions.  Smoking also increases the risk of gum disease.

Good oral hygiene, a balanced diet, and regular dental visits can help reduce your risk of developing gum disease.

Signs and symptoms of gum disease:

  • Bleeding gums Gums should never bleed, even when you brush vigorously or use dental floss.
  • Loose teeth – Also caused by bone loss or weakened periodontal fibers (fibers that support the tooth to the bone).
  • New spacing between teeth – Caused by bone loss.
  • Persistent bad breath – Caused by bacteria in the mouth.
  • Pus around the teeth and gums – Sign that there is an infection present.
  • Receding gums – Loss of gum around a tooth.
  • Red and puffy gums – Gums should never be red or swollen.
  • Tenderness or Discomfort – Plaque, calculus, and bacteria irritate the gums and teeth.

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