During the early stage of gum disease known as gingivitis, the gums become red and swollen and may bleed easily. There is usually little or no discomfort. Gingivitis can be reversed with treatment in the dental office and good oral care at home.
Untreated periodontal disease can lead to periodontitis, the destruction of the tissues that anchor teeth in the bone. As the disease progresses, pockets form and allow more plaque to collect below the gum line. Tooth roots are exposed and may become at risk for decay and are sensitive to cold and touch. In advanced periodontitis, the teeth lose more support as the disease continues to destroy the periodontal ligament and bone. Unless treated, the affected teeth frequently become loose and may fall out or require removal by a dentist.