Gum disease or periodontal disease is when the gums start pulling away or receding from the teeth. This can eventually lead to bone loss and then tooth loss. The gums start receding when plaque and calculus build up around the base of the teeth. Plaque will build up daily on teeth and this buildup can be controlled by regular daily brushing and flossing. As plaque builds up over time, it hardens and becomes calculus. Studies show that mouth rinses are effective at inhibiting plaque buildup, but not removing it. Built up plaque and calculus can only be removed by a professional cleaning. Regular cleanings by a dentist or hygienist will, with proper daily brushing and flossing, prevent periodontal disease.
- Red, puffy gums
- Gum tenderness and/or pain
- Gums that bleed during brushing and flossing
- Persistent bad breath or bad taste in the mouth
- Changes in the way teeth fit together when you bite
- Teeth that have shifted or loosened
- Pus coming from between teeth and gums
- Gums that have separated from the teeth
- Teeth that look longer because the gums have receded
Periodontal disease progresses through three stages; gingivitis, periodontitis and advanced periodontitis. Gingivitis can usually be successfully treated by improved dental hygiene (brushing and flossing) and twice annual visits to a dental office for a professional cleaning. Untreated gingivitis will progress into periodontitis.
Periodontitis can only be treated in a dental office. In the early stages periodontal procedures like a Scaling and Root Plane and Periodontal Maintenance will usually successfully treat or cure the problem. In the advanced stages periodontal surgery is needed to successfully treat the disease. In the advanced stages some gums and teeth may already be too badly damaged to save. The following graphics show the different stages of periodontal disease. The American Dental Society has an online video about periodontal disease, click here.