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Susan Hellyer, MD
What Is Gum Disease?
A&A Maryland Hearing Center

What Is Gum Disease?

Gum disease, or periodontal disease, a chronic inflammation and infection of the gums and surrounding tissue, is the major cause of about 70% of adult tooth loss affecting three out of four persons at some point in their life.
What Causes Gum disease?
Bacterial plaque a sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on the teeth is recognized as the primary cause of gum disease. Specific periodontal diseases may be associated with specific bacterial types. If plaque isnt removed each day by brushing and flossing, it hardens into a rough, porous substance called calculus (also known as tartar). Toxins (poisons) produced and released by bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. These toxins cause the breakdown of the fibers that hold the gums tightly to the teeth, creating periodontal pockets, which fill with even more toxins and bacteria. As the disease progresses, pockets extend deeper and the bacteria moves down until the bone that holds the tooth in place is destroyed. The tooth eventually will fall out or require extraction.
What Are The Warning Signs ff Gum Disease?
Signs include red, swollen or tender gums, bleeding while brushing or flossing, gums that pull away from teeth, loose or separating teeth, puss between the gum and tooth, persistent bad breath, change in the way the teeth fit together when the patient bites, and a change in the fit of partial dentures. While patients are advised to check for the warning signs, there might not be any discomfort until the disease has spread to a point where the tooth is unsalvageable. That is why patients are advised to get frequent dental exams.
What does Periodontal
Treatment Involve?
In the early stages, most treatment involves scaling and root planingremoving plaque and calculus around the tooth and smoothing the root surfaces. More advanced cases may require surgical treatment.
How Do You Prevent Gum Disease?
Removing plaque through daily brushing, flossing and professional cleaning is the best way to minimize your risk.
Is Maintenance Important?
Sticking to a regular oral hygiene regimen is crucial for patients who want to sustain the results of therapy.
Source for “What Is Gum Disease” is a publication of the Academy of General Dentistry.
Additional Information
Recent studies have linked periodontal disease to clot formation in the brain. The accumulation of gum disease plaque in arteries can lead to a cerebro vascular accident (stroke). Perodontal disease is also linked to heart attacks, kidney involvement, weakened bones, pneumonia, and a disruption of diabetic control.

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