Gum disease

Synonyms: Periodontal disease

Medical Specialties: Dentistry, Family practice, Internal medicine

Clinical Definition

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is an inflammatory response of the gingiva to bacteria. It occurs due to a buildup of plaque and tartar on the teeth. The condition is one of the leading causes of tooth loss in adults. 

In Our Own Words

Gum disease is a very common condition, which causes inflammation and infection of the gums and surrounding tissues of the mouth. It is caused by the accumulation of plaque on the teeth and can lead to tooth loss.


Bacteria are normally present in the mouth and develop into a sticky film called plaque. Plaque can harden and turn into tartar, which needs to be removed. The bacteria that plaque and tartar harbor can produce toxins, and the body’s immune system will try to fight the bacteria, leading to inflamed gums and gum disease. In periodontitis, there are pockets where the gums have receded and the fight goes on below the gum line. Gum disease can be associated with other medical conditions besides tooth loss.

Relevant Conditions
  • Diabetes
  • AIDS
  • Leukemia
  • Autoimmune disease
Common Types
  • Gingivitis
  • Periodontitis
Side Effects
  • Bleeding gums; red gums
  • Receding gums
  • Bad breath
  • Loose teeth
Share this article
  • American Dental Association. “Gum Disease.” Accessed September 2013.
  • National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. “Periodontal (Gum) Disease: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments.” Accessed September 2013.
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