Gums that bleed are so common that the condition may seem normal. And since bleeding gums can persist for months or years without pain, the seriousness of gum disease is hidden. This is similar to cancer and heart disease that remain silent until the disease is well advanced. The consequences of gum disease, which are different from cancer and heart disease, include destruction of the jaw bone that supports the gums and teeth. The loss of jaw bone results in gum recession and loose teeth. When enough bone is lost, extraction of a tooth may be necessary. But gum disease is a term that is used to describe two similar but different diseases, gingivitis and periodontitis. Bleeding gums are common to both diseases but bone loss only occurs with periodontitis. It takes special measurements of the gums and jaw bone to identify gum disease. In addition to seeing your dentist for an evaluation of your gums and assessment of your risk for gum disease there is much that you can do to prevent gum disease or to get the best result if you need treatment.
Recent research indicates that gum disease may be associated with certain medical conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and pregnancy complications. All of these conditions involve inflammation in the body and all share some common risk factors such as smoking and poor diet. So far we don’t know if one disease leads to another or if treating periodontal disease improves the risk for or outcomes of any of these other conditions. One exception is that some studies have found that treating severe gum disease may help people with diabetes improve control of their blood sugar. In addition, people with diabetes that have good control of their blood sugar have an easier time maintaining good periodontal health.