What is Gum Disease

Gum disease is often thought to be a problem that only the elderly suffer from. This is not the case. Gum disease can strike people of any age. Contrary to popular belief, gum disease is not always a result of not taking proper care of the teeth and gums. In the United States it is the presence of gum disease, and not the process of aging that leads to the loss of one or more teeth. Let us take a closer look at gum disease.

Gum disease is also commonly referred to as periodontal disease (pronounced per-ee-oh-don-tul). Two specific types of gum disease that can lead to the loss of teeth if left undiagnosed and untreated include gingivitis and periodontitis.

Periodontal disease comes from the word “periodontal” which stands for “around the tooth.” In other words this type of disease weakens the bones that surround the teeth and the gum and that is why tooth loss is often the unfortunate result. Gum disease is a chronic disease that worsens over time and it is also a form of a bacterial disease.


To put it as simply as possible, gum disease is an infection that occurs in the bone and the tissues that help to keep the teeth in place in the gums. Most often gum disease starts to develop as a result of too much plaque on the teeth. Plaque is defined as “an invisible sticky layer of germs that forms naturally on the teeth and gums.” Plaque is composed of a certain amount of bacteria and these bacteria produce a number of toxins. The toxins serve to irritate and cause damage to the gums that the teeth are nestled in.

The mouth contains hundreds of kinds of bacteria that can wreak havoc on a regular basis and that is why every individual is encouraged to brush their teeth after every meal and to floss every day. Fighting plaque is an uphill battle and a constant one that can be won with proper care and maintenance. Visiting the dentist on a regular basis for cleanings and check ups is also imperative to good oral hygiene.


Gingivitis is gum disease in its mildest and most early form. When gingivitis sets in, the gums change from their natural healthy pink color to a redder shade and they then become swollen and develop the tendency to bleed with little provocation. This is a process that often happens gradually. At this stage there is generally very little pain and discomfort. Sometimes there is so little bleeding of the gums that the individual is not even aware that he or she has a problem with the teeth.

In some but not necessarily all incidences, gingivitis occurs as a result of oral hygiene that is well below normal standards. Be aware however that with proper care and professional dental intervention, gingivitis can be reversed and will not become more serious. If left untreated it will advance into the more damaging dental disease of periodontitis. At its worse, those afflicted with periodontitis can have teeth becoming loss from the gums and falling out.