Gum disease, or Periodontal disease is the chronic inflammation and infection of the gums and the surrounding tissues. It is the major cause of adult tooth loss.
The primary cause of gum disease is bacterial plaque. If plaque is not removed each day by brushing and flossing, it hardens into a rough substance called calculus. Toxins produced and released by bacteria irritate the gums and cause the breakdown of the fibers that hold the gums tightly to the teeth. As a result, periodontal pockets form which fill with more toxins and bacteria. As the disease progresses, periodontal pockets get deeper, and the bacteria move down to the bone causing its breakdown. The tooth eventually falls out, or requires extraction do to lack of bone support.
Early signs of gum disease include: redness, swollen gums, and bleeding while brushing or flossing. There may not be any discomfort until the disease is advanced, and the tooth is unsalvageable. Therefore, it’s important to have regular dental hygiene exams to screen for potential problems.
In the early stages of periodontal disease, treatment involves scaling and root-planing to remove plaque and calculus around the teeth. Antibiotics or antimicrobials may be used to enhance the effects of scaling and root planning. More advanced cases may require surgical treatments.