Gum disease is an infection of the soft tissues that surround the teeth. It is caused by bacteria that are found in plaque. If the plaque and bacteria is not removed from the teeth on a regular basis the tissue becomes red, swollen and can bleed easily. Eventually the bone that surrounds the teeth can be affected causing possible bone loss. Bone loss is irreversible and can lead to tooth loss.
There are three stages of gum disease:
Gingivitis: The first stage of gum disease is an infection of the gums. The gums will be red and swollen and bleed easily. Healthy gums do not bleed. At all stages of gum disease there can be bad breath. In this early stage of gum disease, the damage can be reversed, since the bone and connective tissue that hold the teeth in place are not yet affected.
Periodontitis: At this stage, gums begin to separate and recede from the teeth. This allows plaque to form below the gum line toward the roots of the teeth where a regular toothbrush cannot reach. There will be bleeding and possibly pus when pressure is applied to the gum tissue.
Advanced Periodontitis: In this final stage of gum disease, the connective tissue and fibers and the surrounding bone are destroyed. The teeth may appear to have gotten longer but it is actually the supporting gum and bone that has receded. The teeth will easily shift causing your bite to change.
Gum disease is most common in adults but can occur at any age.
Youngsters who are wearing dental appliances must be diligent in their cleaning routines to prevent problems. If detected in its early stages, gum disease can be reversed so see your dentist on a regular basis. By scheduling regular checkups, early stage gum disease can be treated before it leads to a much more serious condition. If your condition is more advanced, treatment in the dental office will be required.