Periodontal (gum) disease is defined as a bacterial infection of the gums, bones, and ligaments that support the teeth and hold them in the jaw. When gum disease progresses to later stages, the supporting structures of the teeth are destroyed, and tooth loss can result.
Plaque, which begins forming on teeth within as little as four hours after brushing, is the primary factor in gum disease. Plaque contains bacteria that attack gums and release toxins that inflame the soft tissues of the mouth. Plaque that is not removed by brushing and flossing hardens into tartar (calculus), a crusty deposit that can only be removed by a dentist.