Gingivitis and Periodontitis are considered to be a single disease complex often called gum disease. Gingivitis sometimes goes unnoticed in the early stages and may cause no symptoms until it is fairly advanced. It may then spread to the bony tissues, which lie under the gums and support the teeth. This is called Periodontitis, which is a much more serious condition than Gingivitis.
In later stages of Periodontitis, the teeth can become loose and severely infected with pus oozing from around the sockets. In very advanced Periodontitis, the teeth can actually fall out or may have to be removed because of infection. Gum disease is the major cause of premature tooth loss.
Gum disease is caused by bacteria, which are incorporated into a substance called dental plaque. Plaque begins as a soft and sticky substance, which is constantly forming on all areas of the teeth. This harmful material can be present in every area of the mouth. It is especially harmful in areas where it is hard to see and difficult to remove, such as between the teeth and in crevices between the gum and tooth surface.
The longer plaque is allowed to go untreated, the more difficult it is to remove. The bacteria in plaque or tartar produce irritating substances that cause Gingivitis and Periodontitis. At some point, the plaque hardens and has to be scraped off the teeth. In the early stages, it can be brushed and flossed off the teeth but once it has set and formed tartar or calculus, a dentist or dental hygienist must remove it.