Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, affects your gums which are the tissues that support your teeth. If left untreated, gum disease can lead to tooth rot, possible destruction of your lower jaw, stroke, kidney disease, low birth weight, preterm infants and first heart attacks. It’s important to recognize the signs of gum disease as early as possible so that you can get treatment and prevent the problem from getting worse.

1. Keep a close eye on your gums when you brush. If you notice there’s some bleeding, then you likely have the mildest form of periodontal disease, which is gingivitis. Other indications are gum swelling and pain during brushing or flossing.

2. Visit a dentist if you suspect you have gum disease. He will examine your teeth. If the dentist discovers that the pockets around your gums are more than 4 millimeters deep, then you likely have a more serious form of gum disease than gingivitis.

3. Complete any directions the dentist gives you to help you treat the gingivitis, if you have it. These directions generally involve flossing and brushing regularly. If caught early enough, gum disease will usually heal on its own if proper oral hygiene is practiced.

4. Sit through x-rays, if that is what your dentist orders. X-rays will be done in the worst cases of gum disease where bone loss in the tooth and jaw is suspected.

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