Gum disease, or periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in the United States today. In its early stages, periodontal disease is simply a detachment of the gum tissue from the root surface of the tooth, which is a progressive process that begins with gingivitis. This detachment is caused by the collection of bacteria (or plaque) that adhere to the surface of the tooth, and gradually break down the seal which sticks the gum tissue to the tooth. This is an insidious process which occurs, usually over a period of years, and is rarely, if ever, painful.In its more advanced stages, periodontal disease is a chronic infection, which takes the form of bone degeneration in the socket around the root of the affected tooth, and results in looseness of the tooth. This condition is usually characterized by red, swollen gums which bleed easily, and often the presence of hard black deposits of calcified bacterial plaque on the surface of the teeth, called calculus.
Severely affected teeth, which usually are very loose as a result of a longstanding periodontal infection, can only be treated by removal.