Having healthy gums is necessary to your dental health and your overall health and wellbeing, yet, according to the CDC, nearly 50 percent of adults in the United States have gum disease. Many of our patients don’t really understand what gum disease is or what happens if it advances, so Dr. Sninski, a respected dentist in Cary, NC, is answering the question, “What is gum disease?” as well as what causes it and how to prevent it.

cary nc dentist gum disease

What Is Gum Disease?

Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, occurs when bacteria build up below the gum line, causing infection and inflammation of the soft tissue around the teeth. There are two kinds of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontitis.


Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease when the tissue may be sensitive or painful, and they may even bleed when brushing and flossing due to inflammation. However, with proper dental health care and professional intervention from a dentist, gingivitis can be reversed and healthy gums can be restored. Signs of gingivitis include:

  • Red or swollen gums
  • Tenderness and inflammation
  • Bad breath
  • Pain when chewing
  • Teeth sensitivity
  • Bleeding when brushing, flossing, or even eating crunchy food like chips.


Periodontitis is a more serious form of gum disease in which infection damages the soft tissue around the teeth, causing gum tissue to recede. The bone supporting the teeth becomes compromised, leading to loose teeth or even tooth loss. This disease is more common in older adults, people who smoke, and people living below the poverty line. Symptoms of periodontitis include:

  • Swollen gums
  • Receding gums or teeth looking longer
  • Gums bleed easily
  • Bad breath
  • Infection near the gum line or pus between teeth and gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Change in how your teeth bite together

If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your dentist immediately.

What Causes Gum Disease?

Gum disease is primarily caused by neglecting your dental health. When food particles break down, they combine with bacteria to form a sticky layer of film on the teeth called plaque. Over time, plaque can harden into tartar which builds up under the gum line, continually exposing the delicate tissues to bacteria. However, other factors increase the risk:

  • Smoking, vaping, or using tobacco products
  • Diabetes
  • Stress
  • History of dental health issues in your family
  • Crooked or misshapen teeth
  • Compromised immune system
  • Defective fillings
  • Chronic dry mouth (xerostomia)

How Can You Prevent Gum Disease?

Gum disease is caused by bacteria in the mouth. Food debris, sugar, and starch feed bacteria both on the teeth and on the gums, leading to a build-up of acid-producing bacteria around and under the gum line that causes the infection and inflammation we mentioned above.

Thus, getting rid of the bacteria is key to healthy gums as well as detecting issues early so your dentist can help you take action to improve your oral health. To prevent gum disease, make sure to:

  • Brush twice a day using a fluroidated toothpaste.
  • Avoid drinking sodas or consuming foods and beverages high in sugar and starch.
  • Floss at least once per day, particularly before bed.
  • Schedule regular dental checkups and teeth cleanings.

Schedule a Dental Checkup in Cary Today

If you are concerned about gum disease or you’re past due for a dental checkup and cleaning, we can help. Call us at our Holly Springs dentist office at (919) 600-6262 and our Cary, NC dentist office at (919) 467-2203, or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.