Gum disease develops in the space between the gum line and the teeth. If left untreated this oral health problem can damage more than your gums.
According to, gum disease has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and other health problems.
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that 80 percent of adults in the United States have some degree of gum disease.
Types of Gum Disease Gum disease is classified as either gingivitis or periodontitis.
Gingivitis results in swollen, irritated gums that bleed easily. Good oral health habits, including daily flossing and brushing, as well as getting regular professional teeth cleanings can prevent and help to reverse this disease, which typically doesn't result in the loss of gum tissue or teeth.
Periodontitis occurs as a result of untreated gingivitis. In periodontitis, the gums significantly recede from the teeth, leading to the formation of infected pockets. As the body's immune system struggles to fight off these infection, tissues and bones may start to break down. Without proper treatment, the gums, connective tissue, and jaw bones that support your teeth may all deteriorate and begin to compromise your overall oral health.
Eventually, the teeth will loosen and either fall out or have to be removed.
Signs of Gum Disease
A sour taste or persistently bad breath
A change in how partial dentures fit
A change in how teeth fit together when you bite down
Bleeding gums
Gum tissue that pulls away from your teeth
Loose teeth or increasing spaces between your teeth
Pain when chewing
Unusually sensitive teeth
Swollen and tender gums
Causes of Gum Disease
Other factors associated with gum disease include:
Smoking and chewing tobacco ‹ tobacco products irritate the gums and make gum disease more difficult to treat.
Systemic diseases that affect the immune system, such as cancer, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS
Taking certain medications, including some blood pressure drugs,
antidepressants, steroids, and oral contraceptives, that can cause dry mouth. The lack of saliva in your mouth makes you more susceptible to gum disease since one of its main functions is to help wash away food particles and bacteria.
Crooked teeth
Dental bridges that don't fit properly
Old and defective fillings
Hormonal fluctuations, particularly those that occur during pregnancy
Genetic differences may make some people more susceptible to gum disease
Stress, which can reduce your body's defenses when it comes to fighting off any infection, including gum infections
Consequences of Untreated Gum Disease
Untreated gum disease has been associated with an increased risk for heart disease and stroke, and for women, an increased chance of delivering a baby with a low birth weight. Gum disease has also been linked to trouble controlling blood sugar among diabetics.
Treatment Options
Regular professional deep cleanings
Medications that are either taken orally or are inserted directly into
infected tissue pockets
Surgery, in more severe cases of gum disease. One type, called flap surgery, involves pulling up the gum tissue in order to remove tartar and then stitching the tissue back in place for a tight fit around the teeth. Tissue grafts can also be used to replace severely damaged bone or gum. In bone grafting, for instance, a small piece of mesh-like material is placed between the bone and gum tissue, enabling the supportive tissue and bone to regenerate.
While it's good to know there are treatments, it's better to avoid gum disease in the first place, by brushing and flossing at least twice a day, eating a balanced diet, and visiting your dentist regularly for exams and cleanings.