Periodontal (gum) disease is insidious. It is an infection of the gums that starts out as plaque, the opaque film on the teeth that hardens to form tartar. As this tartar accumulates, it harbors bacteria that attack the soft tissue around the gums. When this happens, the gums become inflamed, which leads to the early stages of gum disease, called gingivitis . Left untreated, the inflammation from the bacterial attack on the gums progresses to the bony attachment around the teeth in the disease called periodontitis . Except for bad breath and gums that bleed, there are very few early warning signs. The disease advances silently, often without pain until the end stages. This is why it is important to regularly visit the dentist for check-ups.
Tooth loss is only the most obvious indicator of gum disease. Scientific research has discovered that there may be a link between gum disease and stroke, heart disease, diabetes -- even an increased risk for pregnant women. When your gums become diseased, the literature has shown that your entire immune system is weakened.