Home > Health Library > Gum Disease
Gum disease is an infection of the tissues
and bones that surround and support the teeth. It is also called periodontal
There are two types of gum disease:
Gum disease is
caused by the growth of germs called bacteria on the teeth and gums. Bacteria are present in
plaque, a clear, sticky substance that your mouth produces.
Things that make you more likely to
get gum disease include:
gums are pink and firm, fit snugly around the teeth, and do not bleed easily.
Gingivitis usually isn't painful, so you may not
notice the symptoms and may not get the treatment you need.
In periodontitis, the symptoms are
easier to see, such as:
If you think you have gum disease, see your dentist right away. Early treatment can keep it from getting worse.
To find out if you have gum disease, your dentist or dental hygienist will do an exam to look
Your dentist or dental hygienist may take X-rays of your
teeth to look for bone damage and other problems.
Early treatment of
gum disease is very important. It can help prevent permanent gum damage, control
infection, and prevent tooth loss. For treatment to work:
For gingivitis, your dentist may
antibiotics to help fight the infection. They can be
put directly on the gums, swallowed as pills or capsules, or swished around your teeth as mouthwash. Your dentist may also recommend an antibacterial
toothpaste that reduces plaque and gingivitis when used regularly.
periodontitis, your dentist or dental hygienist may clean your teeth using a
method called root planing and scaling. This removes the plaque and tartar
buildup both above and below the gum line.
You may need surgery if
these treatments don't control the infection or if you have severe
damage to your gums or teeth. Surgery options include:
After surgery, you may need to take antibiotics or other medicines to aid healing and prevent infection.
After treatment, keep your mouth
disease-free by brushing and flossing to prevent plaque buildup. Your dentist will
probably prescribe an antibacterial mouthwash.
Gum disease is most common in adults, but it can affect anyone, even
children. So good dental habits are important throughout your life.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Learning about gum disease:
Living with gum disease:
The American Dental Association (ADA), the professional
membership organization of practicing dentists, provides information about oral
health care for children and adults. The ADA can also help you find a dentist
in your area.
Other Works Consulted
Famili P, et al. (2007). The effect of androgen
deprivation therapy on periodontal disease in men with prostate cancer.
Journal of Urology, 177(3): 921–924.
Hodges KO (2009). Periodontal diseases. In
NO Harris et al., eds., Primary Preventive Dentistry,
7th ed., pp. 46–66. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Robinson PG, et al. (2005). Manual versus powered
toothbrushing for oral health. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2). Oxford: Update Software.
Task Force on Periodontal Treatment of Pregnant Women
(2004). American Academy of Periodontology statement regarding periodontal
management of the pregnant patient. Journal of Periodontology, 75(3): 495.
Current as of:
May 29, 2013
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Steven K. Patterson, BS, DDS, MPH - Dentistry
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