Gum disease is an infection of the tissues that surround and support your teeth. It is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. Because gum disease is usually painless, you may not know you have it. Also referred to as periodontal disease, gum disease is caused by plaque, the sticky film of bacteria that is constantly forming on our teeth.
Here are some warning signs that can signal a problem:
gums that bleed easily
red, swollen, tender gums
gums that have pulled away from the teeth
persistent bad breath or bad taste
permanent teeth that are loose or separating
any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
any change in the fit of partial dentures
Some factors increase the risk of developing gum disease. They are:
poor oral hygiene
smoking or chewing tobacco
crooked teeth that are hard to keep clean
medications, including steroids, certain types of anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, some calcium channel blockers and oral contraceptives
See your dentist if you suspect you have gum disease because the sooner you treat it the better. The early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. If you have gingivitis, your gums may become red, swollen and bleed easily. At this stage, the disease is still reversible and can usually be eliminated by a professional cleaning at your dental office, followed by daily brushing and flossing.