Gum disease can occur when your teeth become infected and plaque builds up and spreads over time. Gum disease is very common and can occur at any age.

Types of gum disease

Failure to brush properly can lead to inflammation of the gums known as gingivitis. If left untreated, gingivitis can cause the gums to recede from your teeth, leaving tiny pockets at the base of the tooth. These pockets further complicate the cleaning process and can lead to more extensive inflammation and infection.

Periodontitis is a more severe form of gum disease caused by tartar buildup irritating the bones surrounding the teeth. The pockets at the base of the teeth caused by gingivitis can deepen and expose the root. Once this happens, the teeth may loosen and even fall out. Your dentist may need to remove the affected tooth.

Symptoms

Gum disease can be difficult to identify. The following symptoms should alert you to the presence of gum disease:

  • Bleeding gums, particularly when brushing teeth
  • Swollen, red gums
  • Discomfort
  • Bad breath
  • Unpleasant taste
  • Loose teeth and abscesses

Risk factors

People who lack proper oral hygiene are at particular risk for gum disease. Also at risk are those with braces, dentures, misaligned teeth, or gaps between the teeth as these cause difficulty in cleaning. Smoking and tobacco consumption are also risk factors for gum disease.

Treatment and prevention

If you experience symptoms of gum disease, it is important to visit your dentist for an examination and treatment. Gum disease usually requires a thorough cleaning and possibly descaling. Intensive descaling is required in cases of periodontitis to remove the plaque and tartar buildup. In advanced cases, surgery may be required.

Your dentist will likely recommend you use mouthwash and even an electric toothbrush to help with plaque prevention and removal. Gum disease can be prevented by maintaining proper oral hygiene. Brush your teeth twice daily, and floss at least once a day. Avoid smoking, and visit your dentist once every year.