Swollen and bleeding gums are early signs that your gums are infected with bacteria. If nothing is done, the infection can spread. It can destroy the structures that support your teeth in your jawbone. Eventually, your teeth can become so loose that they have to be extracted.
Daily brushing and flossing, when done correctly, can help to remove most of the plaque from your teeth. Professional cleanings by your dentist or dental hygienist will keep plaque under control in places that are harder for a toothbrush or floss to reach.
Gum disease is an inflammation of the gum line that can progress to affect the bone that surrounds and supports your teeth. The three stages of gum disease — from least to most severe — are gingivitis, periodontitis and advanced periodontitis.
Gum disease can be painless, so it is important to be aware of any of the following symptoms:
- Swollen, red, tender or bleeding gums
- Gums that recede or move away from the tooth
- Persistent bad breath or bad taste in mouth
- Loose teeth
- Visible pus surrounding the teeth and gums.
Researchers are studying possible connections between gum disease and:
- Atherosclerosis and heart disease — Gum disease may increase the risk of clogged arteries and heart disease. It also is believed to worsen existing heart disease.
- Stroke — Gum disease may increase the risk of the type of stroke that is caused by blocked arteries.
- Premature births— A woman who has gum disease during pregnancy may be more likely to deliver her baby too early. The infant may be more likely to be of low birth weight.
- Diabetes — Diabetic patients with periodontal disease may have more trouble controlling their blood sugar than diabetic patients with healthy gums.
- Respiratory disease — Bacteria involved in gum disease may cause lung infections or worsen existing lung conditions. This is particularly important for elderly adults in institutions such as nursing homes. In this group, bacteria from the mouth may reach the lungs and may cause severe pneumonia.