What is Gum Disease (Periodontics)?

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth. Gingivitis is gum disease in a mildest form. Learn about the risks, causes, prevention and gum disease treatment here.

A diagram of four stages of gum disease and periodontitis

Risks of Gum Disease

Gum disease can cause a variety of different oral health problems, some of these include:

  • Inflammation
  • Tooth loss
  • Bone Damage
  • Plaque on teeth

The gum infection begins when inflammation of the gum occurs due to bacteria in plaque, the sticky film that forms on your teeth.

What is Plaque?

Plaque is sticky and slimy and otherwise, undesirable; and if you’re not brushing and flossing you have your fair share.  But, take it from us: you don’t want it!
Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that builds up on your teeth and if it’s not removed on a regular basis it can cause cavities and gum disease.  If you don’t brush and floss daily it will harden and become tartar.  When tartar forms, brushing and flossing become even more difficult to remove tarter from teeth.  If the situation gets out of control the tarter on teeth can collect along the gum line and this tartar can cause your gums to become red and swollen.  This is known as gingivitis, which is an early stage of gum disease or periodontal disease.  It’s very important to get proper treatment if you get to this stage because it is still reversible.  You do not want it to progress into gum disease!
Symptoms of plaque include a fuzzy film on your teeth, bad breath, and red, swollen gums.  But, you may not know you have plaque because it is hard to see but keep in mind that it is always growing in your mouth whether you know it or not For this reason, it’s important to brush twice a day for two minutes each time, floss at least once daily, and don’t forget to get your regular dental cleanings It may be tempting to skip them but skipping your cleanings will only mean more time in the dentist’s chair later.

What Causes Gum Disease?

There are many causes of gum disease. Although it isn’t possible to stop all the causes, being aware of them is important to have a happy mouth, and healthy looking teeth. Causes include:

  • Stress
  • Smoking or Tobacco Use
  • Genetics
  • Pregnancy
  • Diabetes
  • Medications
  • Poor Nutrition


What is Gingivitis?

As mentioned above, gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease. The gums become red and swollen and bleed easily, but there is little to no discomfort associated with this stage of the disease. It is possible to reverse gingivitis through good oral hygiene and gum disease treatments from the dentist.

Gingivitis Risk Factors

If teeth gingivitis treatment is not received it could progress to periodontitis, which can be aggressive and chronic. Aggressive periodontitis displays rapid bone destruction and attachment loss. Chronic periodontitis is one of the most common forms of gum disease and is frequently seen in adults. The stages progress slowly and can be recognized by gum recession and pocket formation.

Gum Disease Treatment and Prevention

In certain cases, periodontal surgery may be recommended to treat gum disease when non-surgical treatment proves ineffective. Such procedures include:

  • Pocket reduction
  • Soft tissue grafts
  • Bone regeneration

If a tooth is lost due to gum disease, dental implants are always an option for permanent tooth replacement.

Good oral hygiene and regular dentist check-ups will go a long way in preventing periodontal disease. If careful, gum disease treatment won’t be needed.

Daily brushing and flossing can keep plaque to a minimum and, in conjunction with professional cleanings 2-4 times a year, can keep your teeth healthy for life!

The Link Between Gum Disease & Heart Disease

Heart disease and gum disease are often closely related: About 91% of people with heart disease also deal with periodontitis.  The reason for the link is not completely understood, however, the two conditions have many of the same risk factors.

Risk Factors For Both Gum Disease & Heart Disease

According to the American Dental Association nearly 25% of Americans avoid the dentist out of fear. If you are one of these people who will do anything to avoid going near a dental office, you need to know that poor oral health doesn’t just result in cavities or yellow teeth. There can be more serious consequences to not taking care of your teeth such as heart disease. This may seem far-fetched, but sadly it’s not.

Gum Disease is often a result of not taking good care of your teeth and people with gum disease are about twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease. Avoid these three risk factors:

  • Smoking
  • Poor Diet
  • Obesity

One study found that problems in the mouth such as gum disease, cavities, and missing teeth predicted heart disease just as much as cholesterol levels.  According to Gordon Douglass, DDS, past president of the American Academy of Periodontology the relationship between cardiovascular disease and periodontal disease is unclear but that “there’s no question that there appears to be a connection.” (Source).

There is a belief that inflammation in the mouth causes inflammation in blood vessels and inflamed blood vessels will prevent the needed amount of blood to travel between the heart and the rest of the body. This in turn can raise blood pressure.

While the reason(s) for the link is not clear, the connection is still important. Heart disease can be hard to catch early and periodontal disease could be an early indicator. You won’t necessarily know that your cholesterol is getting high whereas you may notice painful gums or bleeding gums.

This correlation is yet another reason for us to remain vigilant when it comes to good oral hygiene and habits. If you keep your mouth clean, it’ll be hard for the bacteria that causes gum disease to get going.

Bottom line: Brushing and flossing just may save your life.

Gun Disease and Pregnancy

Another side effect of gum disease is that it is often harder to become pregnant. It takes women with gum disease on average two months longer than women without gum disease to become pregnant.

The hormonal changes that women experience during pregnancy have an effect on oral health. So while there is certainly a lot to think about while pregnant, and oral health may not be at the top of that list, it should not be ignored.

Higher Risk for Pregnant Woman

Pregnant women are more likely to develop gingivitis, which is the mildest form of gum disease. Gums become red and swollen and bleed easily. Because of this you not only don’t want to ignore your oral health at this time you may want to schedule more cleanings than normal. Another reason additional cleanings aren’t a bad idea is because you’re also eating more frequently than normal. Make sure that you’re brushing with fluoride toothpaste and flossing more frequently as well in order to prevent tooth decay.

Some pregnant women also experience lumps along the gum line and between teeth. These lumps are called “pregnancy tumors” but they are not cancerous and while they bleed easily, they are harmless.  They can be removed if they are bothersome but usually go away on their own after pregnancy.

Untreated dental diseases can be damaging to you and to your baby. Make sure to let your dentist know that you are pregnant, any medications that you’re taking, and any changes that you’re noticing in your oral health. While you’re pregnant treatments and procedures will be a little bit different, such as any medication that you may need. Together, with your dentist you can discuss if a modified dental plan is needed during your pregnancy

Gum Disease and Diabetes

Did you know that good oral health with help you manage your diabetes? If you have diabetes, you are twice as likely to develop gum disease and gum disease can lead to diabetic complications.

Gum disease and diabetes are linked.  Gum disease makes it hard to control blood sugar and when blood sugar isn’t controlled it’s harder to fight infections such as gum disease. This is why good oral health habits are so important when you have diabetes.

Oral Health Tips for Diabetes

  • Use a fluoride toothpaste and brush twice daily
  • Floss daily
  • Use a mouth rinse with fluoride
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks
  • Eat a well-balanced diet
  • Choose healthy snacks such as low-fat cheese, veggies, and nuts

Talk to your dentist about having diabetes, and let her know if you experience bleeding gums, dry mouth, or mouth sores. For more information about oral health and diabetes visit

There is no doubt that we need to be concerned with our overall health including our oral health. If getting into the dentist for your regular check-ups is the last thing on your list, remember that the consequences could be much more serious than a toothache. Give us a call and let us know about your fears. You are not alone, we will help you through the process and make the experience as painless as possible and/or dare we say, even comfortable!

Keep in mind that South Sound Dental also does other types of dental treatments other than Periodontics. Click here to look at all of our dental treatments.