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What Is Gum Disease?

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Gum disease is one of the more severe consequences of poor dental health. Left untreated, gum disease causes infections that lead to sore and bleeding gums and possible tooth loss.

In addition, infections associated with gum disease can travel to other parts of the body (the heart, for example) and cause health problems.

A plaque buildup causes gum disease around the base of the tooth and under the gum line. Plaque is a sticky film that harbors bacteria. It can harden on your teeth making it difficult to remove.

You can remove most plaque by practicing good dental habits daily. However, even good dental habits (brushing twice a day and flossing) cannot always remove all of the plaque. A professional cleaning can remove built up plaque.

Your dental professional will recommend a regular cleaning schedule to make sure plaque doesn't cause more damage. Depending on the state of your oral health, dental professionals recommend cleaning twice or more each year.


The first sign of gum disease is usually a condition called gingivitis. This is a mild form of gum disease, but a signal that your gums' health needs immediate attention.

Gingivitis may make its presence known through swollen or red gums, bleeding gums, a change in color of gums and receding gums. If you follow good dental habits, your dental professional will spot these warning signs and take action. However, if you notice unusual changes in your gums, contact your dental professional for advice.

Left untreated, gingivitis can develop into a more serious gum disease: periodontitis.

Periodontitis is a serious infection that attacks the gums and bone sockets of your teeth. Treatment can be complicated and involve minor surgery.

The symptoms of periodontitis are similar to gingivitis. In addition, look for changes in the spaces between your teeth, bad taste or bad breath, loose teeth or pus around your teeth and gums.

In most cases, your dentist can treat periodontitis. However, the sooner your dental health professional catches the problem, the easier treatment may be.

Your dentist may refer you to a dentist specially trained in treating periodontitis known as a periodontitist. Periodontitist have several strategies for treating periodontitis, including non-surgical office procedures and antibiotics. Severe cases of periodontitis may require more aggressive treatment.

The best treatment for periodontitis is prevention. If you practice good dental hygiene and have regular visits with your dental professionals for examinations and cleanings, you can reduce the chances of periodontitis significantly.​