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What is Gum Disease

Gum disease (also called periodontal disease) is an infection of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth. It is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. Because gum disease is usually painless, however, you may not know you have it.

Gum disease is caused by plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth. These bacteria create toxins that can damage the gums.

In the early stage of gum disease, called gingivitis, the gums can become red, swollen and bleed easily. At this stage, the disease is still reversible and can usually be eliminated by daily brushing and flossing.

In the more advanced stages of gum disease, called periodontitis, the gums and bone that support the teeth can become seriously damaged. The teeth can become loose, fall out or have to be removed by a dentist.

Warning Signs
Gum disease is often silent, meaning symptoms may not appear until an advanced stage of the disease. However, signs of periodontal disease include:
Red, swollen or tender gums
Bleeding while brushing or flossing
Gums that pull away from the teeth
Loose or separating teeth
Pus between the gum and the tooth
Persistent bad breath
A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
A change in the fit of partial dentures
Diagram Comparing Healthy and Diseased Gums (from the The American Academy of Periodontology)

Stages Of Gum Disease
Gingivitis
The mildest form of the diseases, gingivitis causes the gums to become red, swell and bleed easily.  There is usually little or no discomfort at this stage.  Gingivitis is reversible with professional treatment and good home oral care.


Gingivitis

Mild Periodontis

If gingivitis is left untreated, it can advance to periodontis.  In the mild stage, periodontal diseases begin to destroy the bone and tissue that support the teeth.


Mild Periodontis

Moderate - Advanced Periodontis

In the mid-stages, periodontal diseases can lead to more bone and tissue destruction.  The most advanced form of these diseases includes extensive bone and tissue loss.  Teeth often become loose and may have to be removed.


Moderate - Advanced Periodontis

Treatment Of Gum Disease
Without diligent home oral care, including brushing and flossing and regular trips to the dentist, you put yourself at risk for gum disease. If you're diagnosed with gum (periodontal) disease, your periodontist may recommend periodontal surgery.  Click here for procedures for treating gum disease (from the The American Academy of Periodontology).
Determine if you are at risk for periodontal disease (from the The American Academy of Periodontology).

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