Gum disease refers to infections of the gum and bone tissues surrounding your teeth. This kind of infection is also known by the technical names of gingivitis and periodontal disease. Gum diseases are usually caused by poor oral health habits that allow sticky, bacteria-filled plaque to build up on the teeth. If it remains long enough, the bacteria releases toxins that infect the gums and eventually affect the bone supporting the teeth.
This infection typically causes irritation, redness and swelling along the gum line. If plaque is not removed from the teeth daily, then minerals in your saliva can transform that plaque into tartar. The presence of tartar can make it very difficult to clean your teeth properly and increase your risk for periodontal disease.
While improper oral health habits are a main cause of gum disease, a complex mix of genetic, systemic, local, and environmental factors also play a role in its development and progression.
Types of Gum Disease
There are two main types of gum disease. This includes:
Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease and is usually the result of improper oral hygiene habits. Typically, people with gingivitis experience very little or no discomfort. But it can cause inflammation of the soft tissue surrounding your teeth. Generally, your gums will become red, swell, and bleed easily. Gingivitis can be localized to one or more teeth or may affect the entire mouth.
The good news is, gingivitis is usually reversible. To treat this infection, simply improve your oral health habits and at-home oral care routine. It is equally important to continue – or start – regularly visiting the dentist for professional cleanings. A dental professional can help to remove tartar that may be building up and can help identify early indicators of gum disease. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to a more serious form of gum disease, periodontitis.
Periodontitis is a more advanced stage of gum disease in which the infection spreads beyond the gum line and destroys the bone tissue that supports the teeth. During this process, gums become unattached from the tooth root and invading bacteria causes an inflammatory response. This results in the destruction of gum tissue and the loosening of teeth from the bone. In some cases, periodontitis can also result in tooth loss.
Periodontitis is often categorized as mild, moderate, or severe. This is based on bone loss and whether the inflammation is localized to one or more teeth or has spread throughout the mouth. When gum disease becomes this advanced, it becomes nearly impossible for an individual to clean their teeth properly below the gum line and professional care becomes necessary. Once you have progressed to periodontitis, continuous professional maintenance will always be required to prevent the disease from worsening.
Ready to schedule a cleaning and exam? The dentist search tool on our website gives you easy access to over 3,500 in-network Delta Dental dentists so you can find one near you.
You can also download the Delta Dental mobile app for on-the-go access to your member ID card, insurance information and to find a dentist in your area.