Just like bad breath, you may not be aware that you have gum disease. In the early stages it may not be painful and there may be no other symptoms visible to the untrained eye; this is another reason to keep up those six monthly visits to your dentist. During a routine check-up, the disease may be detected in its early stages and its effects may be completely reversed.
There are two main types of gum disease:
When brushing and flossing are not carried out effectively, a soft sticky substance called plaque will start to build up along the gum. Plaque contains bacteria which can irritate and inflame the gums giving them a red, swollen appearance; this condition is called gingivitis and may present symptoms such as bleeding when brushing or flossing your teeth. If ignored, plaque becomes more solid and forms calculus (or tartar) which may require attention from your dentist or hygienist. If the plaque is removed and a strict routine of twice daily (effective) brushing is adhered to, then the gums will recover fully with no further intervention.
Without attention, gingivitis may eventually progress to a much more severe condition known as periodontitis which is the main cause of tooth loss in adults. The gums start to pull away from the teeth giving deeper access to the plaque and calculus; this in turn allows the bacterial infection to track into the supporting tissues of the teeth known as the periodontal tissues which include the bone. The teeth become loosened and sensitive, abscesses can form under the gums and teeth may eventually fall out or need extraction.