gum disease bad

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Persistent sore, swollen, red, or bleeding gums as well as tooth pain or sensitivity and bad breath are warning signs of periodontal disease (gum disease).

You may not realize that persistent sore, swollen, red, or bleeding gums as well as tooth pain or sensitivity and bad breath are warning signs of periodontal disease (gum disease) - a serious infection that, left untreated, may lead to tooth loss as well as heart attack, stroke, diabetes, respiratory diseases, and premature/underweight babies. Here's what you can do to protect your health:

Diagram comparing healthy and diseased gumsPeriodontal disease can affect one tooth or many teeth. It begins when the bacteria in plaque (the sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth) causes the gums to become inflamed.

In the mildest form of the disease, gingivitis, the gums redden, swell and bleed easily. There is usually little or no discomfort. Gingivitis is often caused by inadequate oral hygiene. Gingivitis is reversible with professional treatment and good oral home care.

Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis. With time, plaque can spread and grow below the gum line. Toxins produced by the bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. The toxins stimulate a chronic inflammatory response in which the body in essence turns on itself, and the tissues and bone that support the teeth are broken down and destroyed. Gums separate from the teeth, forming pockets (spaces between the teeth and gums) that become infected. As the disease progresses, the pockets deepen and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed. Often, this destructive process has very mild symptoms. Eventually, teeth can become loose and may have to be removed.

The American Academy of Periodontology is an 8,000-member association of dental professionals specializing in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases affecting the gums and supporting structures of the teeth and in the placement and maintenance of dental implants. Periodontics is one of nine dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association.

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