The Patient's Guide to Gum Disease

Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is a leading cause of tooth loss among American adults. Millions of people have gum disease, but don’t necessarily realize it. One of the most effective ways to protect your mouth from gum disease is to visit your dentist every six months for a professional exam and cleaning. Regular dental office visits in Manhattan or Riverdale, NY will keep your teeth healthier and let your dentist diagnose gum disease as early as possible. gum - disease

Signs and Symptoms

Gum disease is a progressive infection. The earliest stage is gingivitis, which occurs when the gum tissue becomes irritated and inflamed. It’s easy to miss the signs of gingivitis. It can cause the gums to take on a darker red color, compared to the healthy pinkish color they should be. The gums can also become puffy and tender, and they bleed easily during brushing and flossing. Eventually, the infection progresses to periodontitis, which means the bone underneath the teeth has been adversely affected. Periodontitis is characterized by gum recession. Pockets form between the teeth and the gums, and the teeth begin to look longer. If the infection progresses unchecked, the teeth will become loose. Tooth loss can result. Other signs and symptoms can include:

  • Foul breath
  • Bad taste in the mouth
  • Pus draining from the gums
  • Bite misalignment

Causes and Risk Factors

The most common cause of gum disease is plaque. Plaque is the sticky film that forms on the teeth. It can harden quickly and turn into tartar, which only a dentist or dental hygienist can remove. When plaque and tartar are allowed to remain in the mouth, the gum tissue becomes inflamed, leading to gingivitis. Some of the risk factors of periodontal disease include:

  • Cigarettes
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Hormonal fluctuations
  • Certain medications
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Immune-suppressing illnesses


The earlier gum disease is detected, the easier it is to treat. Visit your dentist for a deep cleaning as soon as you notice any signs of gingivitis. Deep cleaning is accomplished with the scaling and root planing technique. Sometimes, antibiotics or special mouth rinses are recommended. Patients are given in-depth guidance on maintaining good oral care at home to reduce the risk of a recurrence of gingivitis.