Understanding Periodontal (Gum) Disease & Gingivitis

Teeth have a support system comprised of bone surrounded by hard and soft tissue to hold teeth firmly in place. Gum disease attacks the teeth below the gum line in a small space called the sulcus. Gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease occurs when bacteria builds up under the tissue and forms into calculus, a hard form of plaque.

Calculus cannot be removed by brushing and can only be removed through a regular dental cleaning performed by a hygienist. Untreated, plaque can result in the pockets of the gums to become deeper, a severe condition known as periodontitis. These deeper pockets expose more of the supporting bone and tissue that retain the teeth to decay and infection. Severe periodontal disease can result in oral problems such as tooth loss and tissue recession as the bone breaks down and the teeth become demineralized.

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Periodontitis is preventable and in most cases can be treated with regular dental exams and cleanings.

Contributors to the development of gum disease include:

  • Poor oral hygiene practices
  • Poor diet
  • Tobacco use
  • Systemic diseases such as diabetes
  • Some medications, cancer therapy, or calcium deficiency
  • Pregnancy, or use of oral contraceptives
  • Improper fitting dental appliances
  • Failing or defective dental restorations, lost fillings

Symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Inflamed gums that are tender, red and swollen
  • Gums that bleed easily
  • Puss, pain or signs of infection
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Gums that have recessed away from the teeth
  • Loose permanent teeth
  • A change in bite or appliance fitment such as a partial denture
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