Periodontal or gum disease can lead to tooth loss if left untreated. Common periodontal diseases include gingivitis and periodontitis. Periodontal disease can affect one tooth or many and begins when the bacteria in plaque causes the gums to become inflamed. Periodontal disease affects the gums and the bones supporting the teeth.
Gingivitis is the least serious form of gum disease. With gingivitis, gums are red, swollen and bleed easily, though there is little to no discomfort. Often gingivitis is caused by inadequate oral hygiene and can be treated through improved oral hygiene at home and regular visits to a periodontist.
If gingivitis is left untreated, periodontitis can develop. Periodontitis occurs when plaque spreads and grows below the gum line, irritating the gums with toxins produced by bacteria. When this happens, gums can separate from the teeth forming pockets that become infected. Gum tissue and bone are damaged to the point where teeth may become loose and need to be removed. Periodontitis can occur in patients who are otherwise healthy or as a symptom of a systemic disease, like diabetes or heart disease.