Periodontal (gum) disease
Periodontal (gum) disease is insidious. It is a slow-moving condition, secretely causing irreversible harm. The number one cause of gum disease is the lack of routine visits (at a minimum of every 6 months) with your hygienist. It is an infection of the gums that starts out as plaque, an opaque film on the teeth that hardens to form tartar. As tartar accumulates, it harbors bacteria that attack the soft tissue around the gums. This is the early stage of gum disease known as Gingivitis. Left untreated, Gingivitis progresses into Periodontitis which ultimately destroys the tissue surrounding your teeth AND the bone that holds your teeth in place. Except for bad breath and gums that bleed, there are very few early warning signs. The disease advances silently, often without pain, and before you know it, your teeth begin to shift and loosen, gums become sensitive, and you don't know why.
Tooth loss is only the most obvious indicator of gum disease. The number one cause of tooth loss in the United States is untreated periodontal disease. Scientific research has discovered linkage between gum disease and stroke, heart disease, diabetes - even an increased risk for pregnant women. When your gums become diseased, your entire immune system is weakened.