What is Gum Disease?

Today in the news and television commercials we often hear the term “gum disease”, but what exactly is gum disease is?


Gum disease is an infection in the tissues that surround and support your teeth.  Your mouth has a “V” shaped sulcus in between every tooth.  A healthy gingival sulcus hugs the tooth like a turtleneck, protecting it from the onslaught of food particles as we chew.  As gum disease develops bacteria grows in between the gum tissues and the tooth, causing a deeper pocket in the sulcus, which leads to bone loss.  Its this loss of bone, that leads to a weakening of the foundation for teeth.  Eventually when there is adequate loss of bone surrounding a tooth, it will begin to get loose.  We measure the severity of gum disease by the depth of the sulcus pocket.  The deeper the pocket the more severe the infection.

Gum disease comes in two stages:

Stage I: Gingivitis. 

Gingivitis is mild and reversible, affecting only the gums.  Gingivitis can be treated by your General Dentist, usually with a deep cleaning or root planning.  Also it is recommended to follow a strict oral hygiene regimen at home.

Stage II: Periodontal Disease.

Periodontal disease is a more severe case of Gingivitis.   If left untreated the bacteria and plaque that cause gingivitis becomes a mineral referred to as calculus.  Calculus causes damage to the tissues surrounding the teeth and results in the gum recession, away from the teeth and its supporting bone structure.  If Periodontal disease is left untreated it may result in the teeth becoming loose and falling out.  Although you do not have to have loose teeth in order to have gum disease.  It is possible to have gum disease and not notice any symptoms.


Warning signs of gum disease may include:

  • The gum tissue bleeds easily
  • The gums that are receding away from the teeth
  • Persistent bad breathe
  • Permanent teeth may be loose or separating.


Some factors that may increase your risk of gum disease:

  • Chewing and/or smoking tobacco
  • Bridges or other restorations that do not fit properly
  • Crowded teeth
  • Pregnancy

Smoking has many negative affects on one’s health, but did you know that it also increases your risk of periodontal disease.

“Recent studies have shown that tobacco use may be one of the most significant risk factors in the development and progression of periodontal disease. In addition, following periodontal treatment or any type of oral surgery, the chemicals in tobacco can slow down the healing process and make the treatment results less predictable.” http://www.perio.org/consumer/smoking.htm

Smokers may have an increases development of calculus, causing deeper pockets and more severe bone loss.



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