Periodontal (gum) Disease
Periodontal disease is insidious. It is an infection of the gums which is often painless until it reaches advanced stages. Except for bad breath and gums that bleed, there are very few early warning signs. Dentists use xrays, and a gum measurement tool (probe) to evaluate the health of your gums.
Periodontal disease is bacterial in origin. Bacteria lives in a plaque matrix which sticks to the teeth. If it remains without being removed during brushing and flossing, the plaque will harden to form calculus or tartar. As tartar accumulates, it provides a rough surface to harbor more bacteria. The bacteria metabolize starches and sugars and produce acids that irritate the gum tissue. The early stage of gum disease, known as gingivitis, means an inflammation of the gums. Left untreated, gingivitis can develop into periodontitis. The later stages of gum disease dissolve the bone which supports the teeth. Less bone and inflammed gums will cause looseness in teeth.
Treatment of early periodontal disease involves cleaning and smoothing the root surfaces (scaling and root planing). Treatment of advanced periodontal disease may also involve removing infected gum tissue or extracting teeth.
Tooth loss is only the most obvious indicator of gum disease. Scientific research has discovered links between gum disease and stroke, heart disease, diabetes - even an increased risk for pregnant women. When your gums become diseased, it may be brought on by weak immune system function.