Periodontal (gum) disease is an infection of the gums that starts out as plaque, an opaque film on the teeth that hardens to form tartar. As tartar accumulates, it harbors bacteria that attack the soft tissue around the gums. This is the early stage of gum disease known as Gingivitis. Left untreated, Gingivitis becomes Periodontitis which ultimately destroys the tissue surrounding your teeth AND the bone that holds your teeth in place. Except for bad breath and gums that bleed, there are very few early warning signals. The disease advances silently, often without pain, and can eventually lead to tooth loss.
In addition to the loss of teeth, scientific research has discovered linkage between gum disease and stroke, heart disease, and diabetes - with an increased risk for pregnant women. When your gums become diseased, your entire immune system is weakened.