It may surprise you, but dental care doesn’t stop at just keeping your teeth healthy. When it comes to maintaining good oral health, your gums are just as important as your teeth. Periodontal disease is a broad term used to describe the various diseases that form in the gums. These can range from simple inflammation of the gums to more serious diseases that can result in tooth loss and bone damage.

Gum disease can be slowed, stopped, even completely prevented with the proper dental care. When plaque gets on your teeth and doesn't get cleaned off by correct and regular brushing and flossing, it can harden, forming "tartar" or "calculus". Once plaque becomes tartar, there's no brushing it off. Only a visit to the dentist's office can get the tartar off of your teeth. The tartar can form underneath your gums as well. The longer that plaque and tartar is left on your teeth, the more harm they cause.

Periodontal disease starts with gingivitis, which is an inflammation of the gums. Inflamed gums are sensitive and bleed easily. Gingivitis is the stage where there is a lot plaque that has not been cleaned. Once the plaque turns hard and forms "tartar", your gingivitis will advance to periodontal disease. The tartar contains toxins and bacteria that cause your gums to bleed, cause bad breath and cause bone loss around your teeth. The more bone loss you have, the more you are prone to have deep gum pockets, and the more debris and bacteria gets trapped. When your immune system attempts to fight these bacteria, it ends up attacking the connective tissue and bone structure that hold your teeth in place. Eventually, your teeth can become loose and will need to be removed. It's a very damaging cycle to not only your mouth but your body as well. Periodontal disease and its toxins have been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and even Alzheimer's.

The best way to prevent gum disease is to brush twice a day and floss at least once. Regular dental checkups are very important to make sure gum disease isn't forming. Your doctor can do probing measurement to measure the health of your bone and gums. If you already know you have gum disease or are diagnosed, deep cleanings (scaling) gum surgery, and bone grafts can control and halt the process. Smoking can also significantly raise your chances of developing gum disease, so good oral health is yet another reason to quit.

Learn about treatments and Periodontal (Gum) Surgery.