Periodontal (gum) disease is an infection of the tissue that surrounds and supports the teeth. A leading cause of tooth loss, it is most often caused by a buildup of plaque on the teeth. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that can be brushed and flossed away with proper oral care. However, when left on the teeth, plaque produces toxins that attack below the gum line and in the crevices between the teeth and gums, causing the bond between teeth and gums to break down.
In the early stage of gum disease, a condition known as gingivitis, in which gums may become red, swollen and bleed easily, can occur. In the more advanced stages of periodontal disease, teeth can loosen and even fall out. Good oral hygiene and regular dental examinations are essential in the prevention and early detection of gum disease.