Gum disease or periodontal disease is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. Because this infection of the supporting tissue of your teeth is often painless, you may not realize that you have gum disease. During your regular oral exams, your dentist measures the depth of the space between your teeth and gums to check for gum disease.
Like tooth decay, gum disease is caused by plaque build-up. The bacteria in plaque attack below the gum line, causing the tooth and its supporting tissues to separate. Periodontal disease, based on its severity, is classified into two stages: gingivitis and periodontitis.
Early-stage gum disease is called gingivitis, where the gums turn red, swollen and prone to bleeding. The disease is still reversible at this stage through daily brushing and flossing.
Advanced-stage gum disease is called periodontitis, where there is serious damage to the gums and bone that support the teeth. Teeth may come loose and fall out, or they may have to be removed by a dentist.
The risk of periodontal disease may be increased by the following:
- Loose dental bridges
- Misaligned teeth
- Defective tooth fillings
- Smoking or chewing tobacco
- Diabetes and other systemic diseases
- Medications like cancer and epilepsy drugs, oral contraceptives and steroids
See your dentist right away if you notice these signs of gum disease:
- Bleeding gums
- Red, tender or swollen gums
- Gums separating or pulling away from teeth
- Bad breath or taste that is persistent
- Pus developing between gums and teeth
- Loose adult teeth
- Sores in your mouth
- Change in fit between teeth when you bite
- Change in fit of dentures
Because periodontal disease is contagious and may not exhibit any warning signs, it is important to schedule regular dentist visits for oral examinations. To keep gum disease from worsening or recurring, make good oral hygiene a part of your healthy lifestyle. Brush and floss daily, and eat a healthy diet between visits to your dentist.