What causes gum disease? There are several stages of gum disease, and all of them share a similar source. Each stage has an impact on your oral health, and advanced gum disease can even impact other medical conditions.

Gum disease (sometimes called “periodontal disease”) begins when the bacteria in your mouth feed on food particles and residual sugars that develop into plaque. If plaque is not regularly removed, by brushing twice a day and flossing once daily, it can harden into tartar. Tartar (sometimes called “calculus”) at the gum line exposes the gum tissue to the constant presence of bacteria.

The first stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. Common symptoms include red, swollen gums, bad breath and bleeding during brushing. Tartar can only be effectively removed by a dental professional, such as Dr. Silberman or one of our skilled hygienists during your dental checkup and cleaning.

Left unchecked, gingivitis can develop into periodontitis. When this happens, tartar at the gum line starts to cause the gums to recede from the teeth. This creates pockets of infection in your gums near the roots of your teeth. This infection can even cause a loss of material in the bones that anchor your teeth. Symptoms of periodontitis are similar to gingivitis and might also include a change in how your teeth bite together or a feeling of loose teeth in the gums.

Periodontal disease is an infection of the gum tissue that causes inflammation. As described above, if gum disease goes untreated, the infection can advance deeper into the gums and tax the immune system.

There is a relationship between the systemic inflammation caused by periodontal disease and other serious health conditions. To be clear, gum disease has not been found to cause other diseases or conditions; it merely seems to occur more frequently together with other diseases.

For instance, diabetics have a higher occurrence of gum disease. Also, when these individual develop gum disease, it tends to advance faster. It’s suspected that diabetes can tax the immune system, making it more difficult for the body to fight infection. This condition makes it easier for bacteria to develop a foothold in the gum tissue.

Gum disease also seems to have a relationship with certain types of heart disease, though this correlation could be related to lifestyle choices, such as tobacco use and poor diet.

New scientific research is continually providing new insights on the relationship between gum disease, systemic inflammation and overall health. You can reduce the chances of developing gum disease by brushing twice a day and flossing once daily. And don’t forget to visit your dentist for regular dental cleanings.

Please call Dr. Silberman if you have questions about periodontal disease or about any other dental concern. The Silberman Dental Group in Waldorf, Maryland, Family Dentistry, at (301) 885-2505 offers no-cost consultations about any of our dental services. Call our office today!