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What is gum disease?

Gum (periodontal) disease is an infection of the gums that can affect the bone structure that supports your teeth. In severe cases, it can make your teeth fall out. Smoking is an important cause of severe gum disease in the United States.

Gum disease starts with bacteria (germs) on your teeth that get under your gums. If the germs stay on your teeth for too long, layers of plaque (film) and tartar (hardened plaque) develop. This buildup leads to early gum disease, called gingivitis.

When gum disease gets worse, your gums can pull away from your teeth and form spaces that get infected. This is severe gum disease, also called periodontitis. The bone and tissue that hold your teeth in place can break down and your teeth may loosen and need to be pulled out.

Carol Jahn
Dentist
Gum disease is an infection caused by the bacteria that live in the plaque that accumulates in your mouth on a daily basis. These bacteria cause the tissue to become red and inflammed; called gingivitis. Gingivitis is often reversed with a regular dental cleaning and good daily oral hygiene. If gingivitis is left unchecked, it progresses and begins to destroy the tissue and bone around the tooth. This is called periodontal disease. If you have been told that you have 'pockets' this is a result of periodontal disease. Pockets are like a wound. They are infected with bacteria and they bleed. A specialized type of cleaning called scaling and root planing is the only type of cleaning that can treat gum disease.

Gum disease is an infection in your gums and the bones around the teeth. It is referred to as periodontal disease or pyorrhea. Gingivitis is the early form of periodontal disease. Left untreated, periodontal disease can progress causing a loss of the bone around the teeth. Teeth may loosen and fall out. Your dentist can diagnose periodontal disease and offer treatments to treat it.

Gum disease is an infection of the gums and surrounding tissues that can range from mild, moderate, severe to advanced. On a daily basis there is plaque that forms around the teeth and gums. Plaque is a bio-film made up of bacteria and bacterial by-products and food remnants. That is why it is essential to brush everyday, twice a day if not three times a day after you eat. Brushing removes the plaque build-up. When plaque remains on the tooth and gums for a long time it causes the gums to get Red and puffy which is a sign of inflammation and thus bleed very easily.

Eventually when there is chronic inflammation the gums detach from the underlying tooth surface. As the Gums detach from the underlying tooth surface the plaque continues to travel down the pocket making it more difficult to clean. If the plaque is not adequately and thoroughly removed the plaque can calcify and turn into Tartar or Calculus. As the infection travels down the tooth the toxins that build-up cause the surrounding bone of the teeth to dissolve. When the infection is limited to the gums it is called Gingivitis and is reversible. When the infection spreads and causes loss of bone it is called Periodontitis. Periodontitis can be treated but usually the damage to bone is irreversible.        

We all know how well that peas-in-the-teeth look impresses first dates and job interviewers, but it doesn't go over too well with the rest of your body either. When plaque—that sticky gunk made up of bacteria, saliva, and yesterday's dinner—wedges between your teeth into your gums, it triggers a process of inflammation that leads to periodontal disease (gingivitis is the infection of the gums while periodontitis occurs when the disease progresses to the ligaments and bones around the teeth). Regular flossing and checkups can rid you of plaque and help save your teeth. Gum disease is linked to many other problems, likely because the same bacteria that can cause periodontal disease can also trigger an immune response that causes inflammation and hardening of the arteries. That plaque that's found near your teeth contains a zoo of bacteria, proteins, sugars, and fat, as well as calcium and phosphorus. This tough stuff sticks to your teeth causing gingivitis (gingivitis is even more of an indicator of heart disease than levels of cholesterol).

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Gum disease is an inflammation of the tissues that hold your teeth in place. If it is severe, it can destroy the tissue and bone. This can lead to tooth loss.

Your teeth are covered with plaque. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth. You can remove plaque by brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and cleaning once a day between your teeth with floss or another interdental cleaner.

Plaque that is not removed can harden into calculus (tartar). When tartar forms above and below the gumline, it becomes harder to brush and clean well between teeth. The buildup of plaque and tartar can lead to gum disease.

Dr. Nicholas M. Dellorusso, DMD
Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon

There are lots of different kinds of diseases that affect the gums but the most common one is called gingivitis. This is an inflammation of the gum tissues which is usually caused by a bacterial film that builds up on the teeth. If you have bleeding gums you should see a dentist.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.