Periodontal (gum) disease is an infection of the gums that occurs due to the accumulation of plaque, an opaque film of germs on the teeth that can harden to form calculus (tartar.) As calculus 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. Before you know it, you are losing your teeth and you don't know why.
Tooth loss is only the most obvious indicator of gum disease. Scientific research has discovered linkage between gum disease and stroke as well as heart disease and diabetes - even an increased risk for pregnant women. When your gums become diseased, your entire immune system is weakened.