Gum Disease

Over 75 percent of Americans over the age of 35 have some form of gum disease. Known as pyorrhea, gum disease – or if you’re a dentist, periodontitis – it’s the main cause of tooth loss in adults.

The mildest form of gum disease is gingivitis. Affecting the gum and tissues that support your teeth, it usually doesn’t hurt and has few symptoms other then red, swollen gums that bleed easily. At this stage of gum disease, gingivitis is easily reversible with treatment from your dentist and good oral home care. Untreated, it can progress, leading to tooth loss, respiratory disease, heart disease and low birth-weight babies.

The progression of gum disease is well known. Plaque, that sticky, colorless film that forms on your teeth each day, hardens into calculus, or what’s commonly called tartar. This calculus builds up under your gums giving bacteria more room to grow in close contact with your gums and do damage to them.

Bacteria in plaque produces toxins that irritates the gums and causes them to pull away from the teeth. This results in periodontal pockets which fill up with toxins and bacteria, in a cycle of more bacteria, more toxin, more tartar, over and over, ultimately destroying the gums and the underlying bone that holds the teeth in place. If left untreated, the affected teeth will become loose, eventually falling out or needing to be removed.

Here are some warning signs of gum disease:

  • Bleeding gums while brushing
  • Red, swollen or tender gums
  • Gums that pull away from the teeth
  • Bad breath that won’t go away
  • Pus between the teeth and gums (leaving a bad taste)
  • Loose or separating teeth
  • Changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite


Thankfully, gum disease is preventable. Brush & floss properly each day and get regular check-ups by your Michigan Dental Association dentist. During your exam, your dentist will inspect your gums, making it easier to catch it in the early stages, and your hygienist will remove plaque and calculus in areas that might lead to gum disease.

Critical to good gum health will be setting the appropriate return care appointments. Some patients will require more frequent visits to maintain gum health and your dentist will establish a program specifically designed to address your particular needs.