Gum disease is caused by build-up of plaque which turns to tartar due to poor oral health, use of tobacco products, family history of gum disease, a condition which impairs the immune system such as diabetes, AIDS, or leukemia, a high level of stress, or a poor diet lacking in essential nutrients. The two stages of gum disease are gingivitis which only affects the gums causing them to appear red and swollen, and bleed during brushing and flossing, and periodontitis which spreads below the gums and damages tissues and bones which support the teeth. Periodontitis causes the gums to pull away from the teeth, leaving deep crevices where bacteria gather and damage the mouth, sometimes causing pus to leak from the gums. The process often gives the teeth an elongated appearance and causes them to loosen or fall out.
Mild cases of gum disease can be treated by more regular brushing and flossing accompanied by regular cleanings by a dentist. Periodontitis is treated using root planning and scaling, a procedure which cleans both above and below the gums of plaque and tartar. Antibiotics are often prescribed to help fight off infections, and surgery is occasionally required to restore a mouth to health. Gum disease in pregnant women can cause premature birth or low-birth-weight, and recent studies have linked heart disease, stroke and diabetes to gingivitis and periodontitis. If you suspect that you may have gum disease, schedule an appointment with a dentist who can help you prevent it from getting worse and restore oral health.