Teeth are held in place by both soft tissue (gums) and bone. Periodontal disease affects the gums and left untreated, can result in the destruction of the gums, parts of the jawbone and portions of the tooth root. The most common forms of periodontal disease are gingivitis and periodontitis.
Gingivitis is the mildest form of periodontal (gum) disease, often caused by inadequate oral hygiene which leads to plaque buildup. Symptoms include red swollen gums or gums that bleed easily.
Factors that may contribute to gingivitis include:
- genetic predisposition
- systemic diseases and conditions
- inadequate nutrition
- hormonal fluctuations
- substance abuse
- HIV infection
- certain medication use
Untreated, gingivitis can advance to periodontitis, an infection that destroys the soft tissue and bone that support your teeth. This condition can eventually cause tooth loss. Long-term periodontitis can lead to serious health problems including higher blood sugar levels and increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
Gum disease can even affect an unborn child. Pregnant women suffering from periodontitis are more likely to give birth to premature babies than are women with healthy gums.
The good news is that periodontitis is both preventable and treatable.
What are the signs of periodontitis?
- swollen, bright red or purple gums.
- gums that are tender when touched.
- receding gums
- persistent breath odor or a bad taste in your mouth.
- loose teeth
The soft and sticky substance that accumulates on the teeth from food debris and bacteria is called plaque. Plaque buildup can lead to gum disease and cavities. Brushing three times a day and flossing on a daily basis can help to remove plaque.
Tartar is a result of plaque changing into mineral deposits that harden near or below the gum line. Although brushing, flossing and regular dental visits can prevent tartar buildup, it can only be removed with a professional cleaning.