Learn About Gum Disease

Gum disease is an infection of the gum tissue. When left untreated, it can progress from gingivitis in its most mild form to periodontitis, a more serious infection.

Gum disease is an infection of the gum tissue. When left untreated, it can progress from gingivitis in its most mild form to periodontitis, a more serious infection. Advanced periodontitis is the most severe form of gum disease. Without treatment, gum disease can destroy the jawbone and lead to tooth loss.  

Symptoms of gum disease can include: 

  • Dark red gums 
  • Swollen gums 
  • Puffy gums 
  • Tender gums 
  • Bleeding gums 
  • Bad breath 
  • Pus between the teeth and gums 
  • Spaces between the teeth and gums 
  • Receding gums 
  • Bite changes 
  • Pain while chewing 
  • Loose teeth 

The best way to prevent gum disease is with excellent oral hygiene. These practices can help you maintain healthy gums: 

  • Brush twice daily with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Make sure you reach every part of your teeth and gums. 
  • Clean between the teeth with floss, a water flosser, or a dental brush at least once daily. 
  • Rinse with alcohol-free mouthwash. 
  • Visit the dentist every six months. 

In addition, research suggests that following a healthy lifestyle can improve your gum health, including the following practices: 

Gingivitis means inflammation of the gums. It’s the most common and mildest form of gum disease.  

Symptoms of gingivitis include: 

  • Dark red gums 
  • Swollen gums 
  • Tender gums 
  • Gaps between the teeth and gums 
  • Bad breath 

If you have gingivitis, your gums may also bleed easily when you brush your teeth. Without treatment, gingivitis can progress to a more serious form of gum disease called periodontitis. 

Gingivitis happens when a film of bacteria, called plaque, builds up on the teeth. The most common reason people get gingivitis is because they don’t brush and floss correctly, which allows plaque to build up and harden on the teeth. It’s important to brush twice a day and  clean between the teeth with floss, a water flosser, or a dental brush daily to maintain healthy gums.  

Several other factors can contribute to gingivitis, including: 

  • Hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause 
  • Illnesses that interfere with the immune system, such as cancer or HIV 
  • Medications that cause dry mouth (also called cottonmouth), such as blood pressure medications, diuretics, or decongestants 
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco 
  • A family history of dental disease 

Gum recession is the process in which the gums that surround the teeth wear down or pull back and expose more of the teeth and the roots. When the gums recede, gaps or pockets form between the teeth and gum line, allowing pathogenic bacteria to accumulate there.  

Gum disease is the most common cause for gum recession. Many other factors may contribute to gum recession, including: 

Once the gums recede, they don’t grow back. However, dental treatments can restore and reattach receded gum tissue. These therapies can include: 

Scaling and root planing 

Your dentist may recommend this procedure as one of the first treatments for receding gums. When you get this treatment, a dental professional uses special tools to remove plaque and tartar on the roots below the gum line and to smooth the roots.  

Pinhole surgical technique 

Your dentist may recommend this newer surgical procedure for mild to moderate gum recession. During this surgery, the dentist makes a tiny hole in the gum tissue above the exposed root and then uses a tool to separate the gum from the tooth. The dentist then stretches and shifts the gum over the exposed tooth root.  

Gum graft surgery 

Your dentist may recommend this procedure for severe gum recession. For this procedure, a dental surgeon removes a small piece of gum tissue from somewhere in the mouth and uses it to cover the exposed roots.