Periodontal (gum) disease is a chronic bacterial infection that affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth.
GINGIVITIS is the mildest form of periodontal (gum) disease. Gingivitis is often caused by inadequate oral hygiene, which leads to plaque buildup. The bacteria in dental plaque irritate the gums and cause inflammation. People with gingivitis usually experience little or no discomfort.
Gingivitis is reversible with professional treatment and good oral care.
However, if gingivitis is left untreated, it can advance to PERIODONTITIS. Over time, plaque can spread and grow below the gum line, producing toxins that irritate the gums. The toxins stimulate a chronic inflammatory response in which the body in essence turns on itself, and begins to attack the gum attachment and bone. Gums separate from the teeth, forming pockets (spaces between the teeth and gums) that become infected. As the disease progresses, the pockets deepen and permit the destruction of more gum until teeth become loose and need to be removed.
Over the past 10 years, numerous scientific studies have shown that the bacteria that causes gum disease can lead to an increased risk of serious health problems.
Periodontal bacteria can enter the blood stream and travel to major organs and begin new infections. Research is suggesting that this may:
- Contribute to the development of heart disease, the nation’s leading cause of death.
- Increase the risk of stroke.
- Increase a woman’s risk of having a preterm, low birth weight baby.
- Pose a serious threat to people whose health is compromised by diabetes, respiratory diseases, or osteoporosis.
Warning signs which may indicate the presence of periodontal disease include:
- Red, swollen or tender gums or other pain in your mouth
- Bleeding while brushing, flossing, or eating hard food
- Gums that are receding or pulling away from the teeth, causing the teeth to look longer
- Loose teeth or a change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- Persistent bad breath
- Pus between your gums and teeth