An estimated 80 percent of American adults have some form of gum (or periodontal) disease. In its earliest stage, your gums might swell and bleed easily. At its worst, you might lose your teeth.

What can I do to prevent gum disease?

Brushing and flossing your teeth every day can help prevent or reverse the earliest stages of gum disease (gingivitis). However, if it is not treated, the bacteria surrounding the gum line will advance and your body will begin to eat away at the fibers that hold the gums to the teeth while trying to fight off the bacteria. This in turn creates deep pockets around the teeth and moves you to the second stage of gum disease called periodontitis.

If I don’t takes steps to treat gum disease, what will happen?

During the second stage, gums pull away from the teeth and form deep pockets of infection. As the bacteria spreads, the pockets become deeper and the infection starts to break down the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place.  If not treated, the bones, gums and connective tissue that support the teeth are destroyed and the teeth may eventually become loose and have to be removed.

How do I know if I have gum disease?

To check for gum disease, the dentist will examine your gums for any signs of bleeding and inflammation. The dentist will also use a tiny ruler called a probe to check for and measure any pockets. In a healthy mouth, the depth of these pockets is usually between 1 and 3 millimeters.  Pockets that are greater than 3 millimeters may be hazardous to your oral health and will need to be treated.

How is gum disease treated?

Gum disease is treated by carefully removing the tartar and plaque above and below the gum line. This process usually will require several visits to the office. Once the bacteria has been removed, the pockets must be regularly cleaned by a dental hygienist to prevent tartar from returning alowing the bacteria to cause further disease progression. In advanced cases, it may be necessary for you to see a periodontist.

Keep your gums and teeth healthy…schedule your cleaning and exam today!

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research