Gum disease begins with inflamed gum tissue around the teeth and, if left untreated, will eventually cause teeth to become so loose that they fall out or have to be extracted. It is the major cause of adult tooth loss â€“ more people lose their teeth to gum disease than tooth decay.
Gum disease is a primary reason why everyone should visit the dentist at least twice a year. Brushing and flossing are very important in helping to prevent gum disease, but for most people, they aren’t enough. Three out of four adults in the U.S. will be affected by gum disease during their lifetimes. Only regular dental visits can ensure the health of your gums and all the tissues supporting your teeth.
â€œPeriodontiumâ€ is the term used to describe the tissues around the tooth. The teeth are seated in sockets surrounded by bone. The gingiva, or gum, is the soft red tissue surrounding the rest of the tooth. The area where the tooth and gum meet is most vulnerable to periodontal disease.
Gingivitis is an early stage of gum disease. It is caused by plaque â€“ a sticky film of bacteria, mucus, and food particles â€“ that constantly forms on teeth. Plaque that isn’t brushed or flossed away hardens into calculus (or tartar) which can only be removed by a dentist or hygienist.
Irritation caused by plaque and calculus causes the gums to get inflamed and swollen, forming pockets between the gums and teeth which fill with even more bacteria.
Early indicators of gingivitis:
- The gum edges, which are normally reddish pink, take on a darker, reddish color.
- Your gums feel tender and bleed while brushing or flossing.
- Your breath may be foul or offensive.
Although these are the basic symptoms of stage one gingivitis, early gingivitis often shows no symptoms until your teeth become seriously threatened.
Periodontitis is the end result of gingivitis. Unless treated by a dentist, the tissues around the teeth become more inflamed and swollen and the pockets continue to deepen, allowing more and more bacteria to thrive. Eventually, it causes destruction of the bone and tissue that surrounds and anchors the teeth, so they become loose and painful to chew with.
At this point, it may be necessary to perform periodontal surgery to save your teeth. Without treatment, gum disease may result in the need for dentures. Periodontal bacteria can also enter the bloodstream. Recent research has linked these bacteria to heart disease, diabetes, low birth-weight babies, and other serious health problems.
It is very important that you make an appointment with your dentist every six months for a cleaning and evaluation to prevent periodontal disease.