Gum (Periodontal) Disease

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Signs, Symptoms & Causes

Gum (periodontal) diseases include:


Gingivitis. The gums are swollen due to bacteria from plaque and tartar on the teeth. With gingivitis, the gums are red and bleed easily.


Periodontitis. This is swelling around the tooth. It occurs when gingivitis is not treated. With periodontitis, pockets form between the gums and teeth. These expose teeth at the gum line. When left untreated, plaque grows below the gum line. Gums, bones, and connective tissue that support the teeth are destroyed. This can cause permanent teeth to separate from each other and loosen. Teeth may even need to be removed.


Gum disease should be treated by a periodontist or a dentist who treats this problem. Material called tartar can form, even when normal brushing and flossing are done. The dentist or dental hygienist can remove tartar on a regular basis. Treatment may also include:

•  Deep cleaning (scaling and root planing).

•  Medications.

•  Surgical treatments. These include flap surgery and bone and tissue grafts.

Questions to Ask

Self-Care / Prevention

•  See your dentist as often as advised. Follow his or her advice for medication, teeth brushing and flossing and using other dental instruments.

•  Don’t smoke. If you smoke, quit.

•  Eat a balanced diet.

•  Limit sugary foods. When you eat sweets, do so with meals, not in between meals. Finish a meal with cheese. This tends to neutralize acids that form.

•  Include foods with good sources of vitamin A and vitamin C daily. Vitamin A is found in cantaloupe, broccoli, spinach, winter squash, and dairy products fortified with vitamin A. Good sources of vitamin C are oranges, tomatoes, potatoes, green peppers, and broccoli.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


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