Gum disease is caused by plaque and tartar buildup in the mouth, which in turn infect the gum tissue. The earliest stage of gum disease, gingivitis, is usually painless and occurs with little to no visible symptoms. During this stage, the gums may appear red or swollen, and can bleed easily. When detected early, gingivitis can be treated and reversed with professional intervention (i.e., cleanings with your dentist) and good oral hygiene habits at home.
If left untreated, gingivitis turns to periodontitis, a much more serious stage of gum disease. In periodontitis, plague spreads below the gum line, which can irritate the gums and cause inflammation. The gums may also start to recede, causing teeth to loosen and eventually fall out or require extraction.
The effects of gum disease go beyond the mouth. Research shows that gum disease is linked to several health conditions including heart disease, diabetes, stroke and respiratory problems. Detecting and treating gum disease in its early stages not only protects your teeth and gums, but also contributes to overall health and well being.