Gingivitis is the medical term for early gum disease, also known as periodontal disease. In general, gum disease can be caused by long-term exposure to plaque, the sticky but colorless film on teeth that forms after eating or sleeping.
Gum disease originates in the gums, where infections form from harmful bacteria and other materials left behind from eating. Early warning signs include:
In many cases, however, gingivitis can go unnoticed. The infections can eventually cause the gums to separate from the teeth, creating even greater opportunities for infection and decay. If gingivitis goes untreated, more serious problems such as abscesses, bone loss or periodontitis can occur.
Periodontitis is treated in a number of ways. One method, called root planing, involves cleaning and scraping below the gum line to smooth the roots. If effective, this procedure helps the gums reattach themselves to the tooth structure. However, not all instances of scaling and root planing successfully reattach the tooth to the gums. Additional measures may be needed if the periodontal pockets persist after scaling and root planing.