Gum Disease

Gum disease

What is gum disease?

Gum disease refers to the most common diseases that affect the gums. There are two major types of gum disease: Gingivitis and Periodontal disease.

What is gingivitis?

Gingivitis is the clinical term for inflammation of the gums.  Gingivitis occurs when bacteria accumulates in the space between the tooth and the gums and causes inflammation.  The hallmark sign of gingivitis is bleeding gums.  Gingivitis is completely reversible with regular dental care combined with proper oral hygiene, but when left untreated it can lead to periodontal disease. This phase of gum disease may sometimes also be classified as Stage I.

What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease is gum disease that has progressed to the point of involving the supporting structures of the teeth – the gingival fibers that connect the gums to the teeth and the teeth to the gums, as well as the alveolar bone that holds the teeth in place.

The first phase of gum disease, gingivitis, can progress to periodontal disease if left untreated.  The bacteria contained within the plaque that accumulates on our teeth must be brushed and flossed away daily.  When it is not, the calcium deposits in our saliva will calcify it and turn it into a hard substance we refer to as calculus, or more commonly, tartar.  Tartar is a porous substance that serves as an ideal surface for bacteria to adhere to.  These bacteria trigger the immune response and create inflammation as they would in any other part of the body.

Inflammation of the gums results in bleeding gums and a larger space between the tooth and the gum in the area in which the gums are unattached to the tooth – this space is referred to as the “pocket’ and is the area we clean when we floss. When significant amounts of plaque are able to occupy this space and cause inflammation, the immune system in certain individuals, will go beyond inflammation of the gums and actually start to destroy the gingival fibers and alveolar bone that hold the teeth in place.

When left untreated, periodontal disease inevitably leads to tooth mobility and loss due to the extensive destruction to the supporting structures of the teeth. The severity of disease is also subcategorized as early, moderate or advanced.  Your Periodontist may also use terms such as “chronic”, “localized” and “generalized” to describe the extent and scope of your condition.  These classifications serve to help you understand the state of your current periodontal health, help indicate the required treatment, and can even help predict the likely prognosis of your case.