Gum disease, which is also known as periodontal disease, is a chronic infection of the tissues that surround and support your teeth. It is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. Gum disease is mainly caused by plaque, the sticky film of bacteria that is constantly forming on our teeth.
Based on the severity of the infection, gum disease is classified as either gingivitis or periodontitis.
Gingivitis (gum inflammation) is the mildest form of periodontal disease. It causes the gum to become red, swollen, and bleed easily. It is usually painless at this stage. Gingivitis is often caused by inadequate oral hygiene yet, it is treatable with professional treatment and good oral home care.
Factors that may contribute to gingivitis include, diabetes, smoking, aging, genetic predisposition, systemic diseases and conditions such as stress, inadequate nutrition, puberty, hormonal fluctuations, pregnancy, substance abuse, HIV infection, and certain medication use.
Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis and can eventually lead to tooth loss and other health problems.
Periodontitis is a serious gum infection that damages the soft tissue and destroys the bone that supports your teeth. In periodontitis, gums pull away from the teeth and form spaces (called “pockets”) that develop infection. The body’s immune system fights the bacteria as the plaque spreads and grows below the gum line. Bacterial toxins and the body’s natural response to infection start to break down the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place. If not treated, the bones, gums, and tissue that support the teeth are destroyed. The teeth may eventually become loose and have to be removed.
In the past decade, the association between periodontal diseases and the development of systemic diseases has received increasing attention. Periodontal pathogens and their products, as well as inflammatory mediators produced in periodontal tissues, can enter the bloodstream thereby, causing and/ or contributing to the development of systemic diseases such as:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Diabetes mellitus
- Arthritis Rheumatoid
- Low birth weight