Gingivitis is the mildest form of periodontal (gum) disease. It causes the gums to become red, swollen, and bleed easily. There is usually little or no discomfort at this stage. Gingivitis is often caused by inadequate oral hygiene. Gingivitis is reversible with professional treatment and good oral home care.
Factors that may contribute to gingivitis include, diabetes, smoking, aging, stress, inadequate nutrition, puberty, hormonal fluctuations, pregnancy, and substance abuse.
Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis. With time, plaque can spread and grow below the gum line. Toxins produced by the bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. The toxins stimulate a chronic inflammatory response and the tissues and bone that support the teeth are broken down and destroyed. Gums separate from the teeth, forming pockets (spaces between the teeth and gums) that become infected. As the disease progresses, the pockets deepen and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed. Eventually, teeth can become loose and may have to be removed.
Gum disease is often silent, meaning 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