If you’ve been diagnosed with periodontal (gum) disease, you’re not alone. Millions of adults in the U.S. currently have some form of the disease, which can range from simple gum inflammation to more serious conditions in which there is major damage to the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth.
Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria in the mouth, along with mucus and other particles that form a sticky, colorless “plaque” on teeth. While regular brushing and flossing can help get rid of plaque, the plaque that is not removed can harden and form “tartar” (also known as “calculus”) that brushing cannot remove. Only professional cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist can remove tartar.
Who gets gum disease?
Both men and women develop gum disease, but it occurs more frequently in males. The most common cause of gum disease however is lack of proper oral hygiene. Other factors that may increase the likelihood of developing periodontal disease include smoking, diseases like diabetes, cancer and AIDS, the use of some medications, and genetic susceptibility.
The longer plaque and tartar stay on teeth, the more harmful they become. The bacteria cause inflammation of the gums that is called “gingivitis,” a condition in which the gums become red, swollen and can bleed easily. Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that can usually be reversed with daily brushing and flossing, and regular cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist. This form of gum disease does not include any loss of bone and tissue that hold teeth in place.