Gum Disease

What is gingivitis?

Gingivitis is a form of gum disease that occurs when plaque, a naturally-occurring sticky film containing bacteria, builds up on teeth and causes inflammation of the surrounding gum tissue. Plaque produces toxins that irritate the gums. This can cause the gums to become inflamed, making them red or puffy, or causing them to bleed. This harmful plaque bacteria can even lead to issues beyond gingivitis like weakened tooth enamel. Gingivitis can be caused by a variety of factors, including poor hygiene, stress, hormonal changes, use of certain medications and use of tobacco.

Gingivitis occurs in 3 out of 4 of Americans during their lifetime, but with proper dental care early on, it’s easily reversed. If left untreated, gingivitis can develop into a more severe form of gum disease, known as periodontitis, which is a major cause of tooth loss in adults.

What is periodontitis or periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease is the result of infections and inflammation of the gums and bone that surround and support the teeth. In its early stage, called gingivitis, the gums can become swollen and red, and they may bleed. When gingivitis is left untreated, it can lead to a more advanced and serious form of disease called periodontitis. In the presence of periodontitis, the gums can pull away from the tooth, bone can be lost, and the teeth may loosen or even fall out. Periodontal disease is mostly seen in adults. There is no cure for periodontitis, but with diligent home and professional care, periodontitis can be treated and controlled.

Gum Disease and Other Systemic Diseases

Many studies have shown a strong link between periodontal disease and other systemic diseases. While a definitive causal relationship has not been conclusively established, research suggest that periodontal disease may contribute to the progression of other diseases.


People with diabetes are more likely to have periodontal disease than people without diabetes, likely because people with diabetes are more susceptible to contracting infections and express slower healing. In fact, periodontal disease is often considered a common complication of diabetes. Those who don’t have their diabetes under control are especially at risk. Research has suggested that the relationship between diabetes and periodontal disease goes both ways: periodontal disease may also make it more difficult for people who have diabetes to control their blood sugar, increasing the risk for diabetic complications.

Heart Disease

Several studies have shown that periodontal disease may increase the risk of heart disease. Scientists believe that inflammation caused by periodontal disease may be responsible for the association. Periodontal disease can also exacerbate existing heart conditions. Patients at risk for infective endocarditis may require prophylactic antibiotics prior to dental procedures.

Respiratory Disease

Research has found that bacteria associated with periodontal disease can be aspirated into the lungs and contribute to respiratory diseases such as pneumonia.


Researchers found that men with gum disease were 49% more likely to develop kidney cancer, 54% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, and 30% more likely to develop blood cancers.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Studies have shown a strong connection between bacteria associated with periodontal disease and the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Gum disease bacteria may be able to travel to the brain and contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

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