Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a serious oral health condition that can damage the hard and soft tissue around the teeth. Without treatment, severe gum disease can damage the bone that supports your teeth and cause teeth to loosen or lead to tooth loss. According to recent findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), half of Americans over the age of 30 have periodontitis, the more advanced form of periodontal disease (AAP). Regular dental checkups are important to find and treat gum disease in it’s early stages. 

Signs of gum disease.

Healthy gums are firm, pale pink, and fit closely around teeth. Gum disease can range from a mild form known as gingivitis that has signs such as red, irritated gums that can bleed easily to a serious condition known as periodontitis, that causes the gums to become swollen and pull away from the teeth and form pockets that become infected. If not treated, the bones, gums, and tissue that support the teeth are destroyed by the disease. If you notice any signs or symptoms of gum disease listed below, make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible.

  • Red or swollen gums
  • Bleeding gums while brushing or flossing
  • Tender or sore gums
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Difficulty flossing

Causes of gum disease.

Most cases of gum disease start with the buildup of plaque. This is the soft, sticky film of bacteria that constantly builds up on your teeth. Plaque that is not removed by brushing and flossing daily can harden into tartar under the gum line. As the tartar and plaque continue to increase, the gum tissue becomes red and swollen and may possibly bleed when you brush and floss. The longer tartar remains on your teeth, the more difficult it is to remove and the more damage it can do to your gums. Once tarter is formed, brushing and flossing will no longer be able to remove the hard build up. A proper teeth cleaning by a dental professional is required to remove tartar.

Other risk factors that can increase the risk of gum disease include crooked teeth, smoking, age, diet, health history, medications, and pregnancy.

Pregnant women can be prone to gum disease due to hormonal changes. It is very important that women who are pregnant practice daily oral hygiene habits and visit the dentist during pregnancy.

Gum disease prevention.

Gum disease is usually the result of poor oral hygiene. Plaque is constantly forming in your mouth. The good news is you can greatly reduce your chance of gum disease by following a clean dental routine:

  • Brush your teeth for two minutes, in the morning and before bed using a fluoride toothpaste with the ADA Seal of Acceptance. Remember to hold your toothbrush at a 45 degree angle towards your tooth and gums and brush gently.
  • Floss your teeth every day. This helps to remove food particles and plaque between teeth and along the gum line that your toothbrush can’t reach.
  • See a dentist twice a year. Routine dental checkups and teeth cleaning can greatly reduce your chance of developing gum disease and dental problems.
  • If you use tobacco products, get help quitting. Call or visit: 1-866-New-Lung (1-866-639-5864). Free telephone or virtual counseling for anyone in Orange County who wants to quit smoking or quit vaping. Free nicotine patches mailed to you.

Additional resources to help you get dental care now and ways to maintain good oral health.

Find a Dentist. Find quality medical and dental care in Orange County for persons who have Medi-Cal, other insurance, are uninsured, or cannot afford care.

OC Health Referral Line.  Get access to dental and health services in Orange County. Call 1-800-564-8448.

Oral Health Tips for Adults. Find information and resources to maintain a healthy smile.


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