Periodontal (gum) disease is a serious condition that, left untreated, can lead to tooth loss. It is marked by chronic bacterial infection that affects the gums and bones supporting the teeth. In its mildest form, called gingivitis, the gums redden, swell, and bleed easily. At this level, one may or may not experience any oral discomfort. Gingivitis is most often the result of inadequate oral hygiene. However, it can be readily reversed with professional treatment and good oral home care.
Untreated, gingivitis can progress to a more serious condition of periodontitis. Over time, plaque forms and can spread and grow below the gum line. Toxins produced by the bacteria in plaque irritate the gums setting off a chronic inflammatory response by the body. In essence, the body turns on itself as it battles the bacterial infection. This results in the break-down and destruction of tissues and bone that support the teeth. The gums then begin to separate from the teeth forming pockets which become infected. As the disease progresses, the pockets deepen and more gum tissues and bone are destroyed. Often, patients will notice bad breath, receding gums, spaces developing between teeth, or teeth appearing elongated. Eventually, teeth can become loose and, in extreme cases, may have to be extracted.
Thus, it is imperative that patients establish a good oral hygiene routine that consists of in-office dental cleanings and thorough daily brushing and flossing.