Plaque, that clear sticky film that accumulates along your gum line and between your teeth on a daily basis, is primarily responsible for gum disease. Consisting of bacteria that produce an acidic substance when they feed on particles of sugar and starch, plaque can cause your gums to become red, swollen, and irritated if not removed promptly. Dentists call this initial irritation gingivitis. Many patients can reverse the disease via regular at-home dental hygiene and a dental cleaning at the office.
If left untreated, gingivitis will progress into periodontitis. The irritation will prompt the gums to draw away from the tooth, forming periodontal pockets. Bacteria and plaque colonize these hard-to-clean pockets, leading to an intensified infection. In response to the presence of infection, your body sends messages to kill the infected tissues, including the connective tissue holding your teeth in place.
As moderate periodontal disease progresses into severe periodontitis, the teeth become loose in their sockets and often require extraction. Replacement via a dental bridge or, in some cases, dental implants, is the next step, although Dr. Goldberg strongly advises treating gum disease before it reaches the point of tooth loss.