What is Gum/Periodontal Disease

Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is a serious bacterial infection that can affect the gums and destroy the bone that supports the teeth.

All people harbor bacteria (or plaque), which grows on the teeth and can cause the gums to become inflamed. Plaque can be removed by daily brushing and flossing, in combination with regular dental cleanings; however, some individuals are more prone to plaque build-up and gum disease. If gum disease is left untreated, progression of the disease can lead to tooth loss. In a recent survey of the U.S. population by the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 50% of adults over age 30 have destructive periodontal disease. Periodontal disease often has no symptoms, however, there may be warning signs.

Warning Signs

  • Bleeding or painful gums
  • Swollen gums
  • Receding gums
  • Bad breath
  • Loose or separating teeth

Risk Factors

Some individuals are at a higher risk of developing periodontal disease due to a number of factors. Be sure to ask your dentist about your risk if you have any of the following:

  • Genetics/Family history of tooth loss
  • Age
  • Smoking or tobacco use
  • Systemic diseases (diabetes, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.)
  • Stress
  • Clenching or grinding your teeth
  • Poor or inadequate oral hygiene

General Health and Periodontal Disease

Tooth loss is not the only potential problem posed by periodontal disease. Research suggests that periodontal disease can adversely impact health conditions such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Stroke
  • Respiratory diseases
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Possible links with certain cancers


There may also be an increased risk of periodontal disease for women in all stages of life due to changes in hormones, including possible adverse pregnancy outcomes. The American Academy of Periodontology provides further illumination on this topic.

In other words, the disease in your gums can contribute to problems in the rest of your body. In some cases, successful treatment of your gum condition can substantially improve your overall health.


A comprehensive periodontal evaluation, as part of a regular dental check-up, is essential in assessing your overall dental health. This examination involves measuring the spaces between the tooth and gum (probing) as well as evaluation of other characteristics. Radiographs, or x-rays, are critical in determining if bone loss has occurred.

Our office utilizes the most up to date equipment including digital radiography, which enhances efficiency and reduces radiation exposure.

Treatment of Periodontal Disease

Fortunately, most forms of periodontal disease can be successfully treated allowing preservation of your natural teeth. In keeping with our mission statement, our office prides itself on successful treatment outcomes by establishing partnerships with our patients and their dentists. We strive to educate our patients to help them achieve and maintain a healthy smile and, ultimately, live well longer.

For more information on periodontal disease go to the American Academy of Periodontology website, where you will find more detailed information.