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Gum Disease (cont.)

Symptoms

Milder types of gum disease (gingivitisClick here to see an illustration.) cause:

  • Red, swollen, tender gums.
  • Gums that bleed easily when brushed or flossed. Healthy gums do not bleed with regular brushing and flossing.

Because gingivitis usually isn't painful, you may not notice the symptoms and may not get the treatment you need. If you don't get treated, the disease may progress.

Advanced gum disease (periodontitisClick here to see an illustration.) causes more noticeable symptoms, such as:

  • Gums that pull away or recede from the teeth.
  • Persistent bad breath.
  • Pus coming from the gums.
  • A change in how your teeth fit together when you bite, or a change in the fit of partial dentures.
  • Loose teeth.

If you use tobacco, you have a higher risk of gum disease. Your gums may actually bleed less, even though they are unhealthy, and you may not realize it's a problem until its too late. If you use tobacco, you will need to see your dentist more often.

What Happens

Milder types of gum disease (gingivitisClick here to see an illustration.) start when bacteria are left on teeth and gums and plaque forms. Plaque and the acids it produces irritate the gums, causing them to become red and swollen.

  • Plaque can harden into tartar (or calculus), a mineral buildup that also irritates gums and must be removed by a dental professional.
  • Untreated gingivitis can progress to advanced gum disease (periodontitisClick here to see an illustration.), causing gums to pull away from the teeth or recede down the root. This creates deep pockets. Plaque can grow in the pockets, further damaging the gums and breaking down bones that support the teeth.
  • Bone damage can loosen teeth, causing them to fall out or have to be removed.

If a woman has gum disease during pregnancy, she may be at greater risk of having a premature, low-birth-weight baby.1

Studies have found a direct link between heart disease and the bacteria that cause gum disease.2 So taking good care of your teeth and gums may have benefits beyond keeping your mouth healthy.

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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