What Is Gum Disease?
First, it is helpful to understand exactly what the disease is. Gum disease progresses in stages. Gingivitis is an early stage in which plaque (a combination of bacteria, mucus, and food particles) begins to build up and irritate gums. People with gingivitis have red, inflamed gums, which may be sensitive, and may bleed sometimes. Chronic bad breath is common with gingivitis. In some people, gingivitis can rapidly advance to periodontitis.
Periodontitis is the truly dangerous form of gum disease. In periodontitis, gum disease bacteria colonize the areas around your teeth, attacking your gums and the bone around your teeth. In response to the infection, your immune system ramps up its defenses, taking a “scorched earth” approach to try to defend the body against infection. In periodontitis, it’s not just bacteria destroying your bone and gums, it’s your own immune system as well.
This is when you experience receding gums, your teeth may get loose and start to drift. Your gums may bleed spontaneously. Eventually you will lose teeth. In addition, you are more likely to develop some of the overall health impacts related to gum disease, such as heart disease, dementia, diabetes, and some forms of cancer. The high-level mobilization of your immune system can also increase the risk of autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, in which your immune system attacks your joints.
Gum disease is composed of two parts: the bacterial infection and your body’s response.