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Gingivitis is a commonly used term that refers to the mildest form of gum disease. Gingivitis causes gums to become red, swollen, and bleed easily. While there is usually little or no discomfort at this initial stage, it is important to take steps to reverse it before it becomes a major problem. Gingivitis is caused by inadequate oral hygiene so the obvious treatment is proper oral care (through routine dental visits and great efforts at home).

Untreated gingivitis can lead to periodontitis. Over time, plaque can spread and grow below the gum line releasing toxins that stimulate chronic inflammatory. Chronically inflamed gums lead to broken down tissues and bone, which lead to the gums separating from the teeth, which lead to more space that then becomes more infected. This destructive pattern can have very mild symptoms, but can have very serious consequences.

The most common forms of periodontitis are:

  • Aggressive Periodontitis (rapid attachment loss and bone destruction),
  • Chronic Periodontitis (usually slower progression of attachment loss),
  • Periodontitis as a Manifestation of Systemic Disease (systemic conditions such as heart disease, respiratory disease, and diabetes are associated with this form of periodontitis),
  • Necrotizing Periodontal Disease (an infection characterized by necrosis of gingival tissues, periodontal ligament and alveolar bone).

Gum disease risk factors include:

  • Age (usually more common in older people)
  • Smoking/Tobacco Use (tobacco use is linked to many serious illnesses)
  • Genetics (some people are more genetically susceptible)
  • Stress (higher stress levels are linked to many serious conditions)
  • Medications (some drugs can affect your oral health)
  • Clenching/Grinding Teeth
  • Other systemic diseases include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Poor Nutrition and Obesity (bodies low in nutrients compromise the immune system making it harder to fight infection)

Gum disease symptoms may not appear until an advanced stage of the disease. However, warning signs of gum disease include the following:

  • Red, swollen or tender gums or other pain in your mouth
  • Bleeding while brushing, flossing, or eating hard food
  • Gums that are receding or pulling away from the teeth, causing the teeth to look longer than before
  • Loose or separating teeth
  • Pus between your gums and teeth
  • Sores in your mouth
  • Persistent bad breath
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • A change in the fit of partial dentures