Gingivitis is an early form of gum disease, or periodontal disease. If you ignore the signs of gingivitis because you don’t recognize them or because you are worried about seeking care from a dentist, your condition will probably get worse. Gingivitis that goes untreated may progress to periodontitis, which is a severe form of gum disease. Periodontitis alone is a serious condition, but data from several clinical studies have shown that periodontitis increases your risk of having a stroke or heart attack, though other studies do not show the same correlation. This is another example of how dental health reflects overall health.
If you develop periodontitis, your gums may be too infected to be treated with just a single dental cleaning. You may want to see a periodontist with expertise in treating gum disease. In general, if the space between your teeth and gums is 5 mm or less, the periodontist or dental hygienist may treat the problem with a combination of scaling (the act of removing the tartar and plaque) and root planing (smoothing the surface of the roots of the teeth to help prevent tartar from building up again). But if the space between your teeth and gums has progressed to more than 5mm, you may require some type of oral surgery.
No matter how your gum disease is treated, it’s important to stick to an oral care routine of brushing at least twice a day and flossing at least once a day or more depending on your dentist or periodontist’s instructions.
Need another reason to prevent gum disease? Being pregnant. Studies have shown that pregnant women with periodontitis are more likely to have a premature infant compared to women with healthy gums.