What Causes Gum Disease?
Our mouths provide a home to millions of bacteria, both beneficial and harmful. Bacteria form a sticky substance, plaque, that adheres to the teeth. Brushing and flossing aim at removing plaque before it mineralizes into tartar. Tartar becomes a colony for more bacteria and adds to their population, pumping out toxins into the gums.
Gums react to this bacterial invasion with an inflammatory response under the direction of the immune system. Around the base of each tooth, a small collar of gum tissue exists that forms a small crevice or pocket. This warm, dark environment provides a perfect habitat for deeper tartar and bacterial penetration, with their toxins seeping into the base of the collar.
Early inflammation results in bleeding gums, known as gingivitis. Bacteria left untreated and undisturbed successfully create a chronic infection in the gum collar. In many cases, the bone begins to deteriorate around the teeth as the bacteria burrow deeper into the gums. While gums may be slightly tender at this stage, there's generally minimal discomfort as the bone dissolves.
More than 50% of the bone around your teeth can disappear before any signs of looseness or pain begin to appear. The bone around teeth never regenerates, so this loss becomes permanent and harder to control as the bacteria hide deeper into the gums. Untreated gum disease leads to abscess and generalized tooth loss in many advanced cases.