Gum disease — gingivitis and periodontitis — is the leading cause of tooth loss among American adults. Yet, gum disease can be prevented by proper dental self-care (brushing and flossing), regular professional check-ups, and good oral hygiene habits.
Gingivitis is the early stage of the more serious condition, periodontitis. Gingivitis is caused primarily by deposits of plaque (food particles and bacteria) that adhere to the base of the tooth.
Symptoms of gingivitis include red swollen, glossy-looking gums that bleed easily upon brushing.
Left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, a disease in which hardened plaque (also called tartar or calculus) pries the gum away from the teeth and erodes the bony structures that support the teeth, causing tooth loss.
Symptoms of periodontitis include chronic bad breath, a foul taste, loosened teeth and/or a widening of the spaces between teeth, and often a sensitivity to cold, hot, or sweet foods.
What You Can Do
The most effective way to combat gum disease is prevention. Learn how to brush and floss properly (a minimum of twice a day), see your dentist regularly, and use good oral hygiene— don’t smoke, avoid sticky sweets, and avoid habits such as nail-biting and “picking” at one’s teeth.
If, however, you recognize the early warning signs of gum disease, see your dentist immediately. The earlier your treatment, the better your chances for a successful cure.