Periodontal (gum) disease is an infection of the tissues that hold your teeth in place. It's typically caused by poor brushing and flossing habits that allow plaque—a sticky film of bacteria—to build up on the teeth and harden. In advanced stages, periodontal disease can lead to sore, bleeding gums; painful chewing problems; and even tooth loss.
There are a number of risk factors for gum disease, but smoking is the most significant. In fact, smoking can even jeopardize the success of treatment. Depending on the extent of the gum disease, treatments can range from professional deep cleaning and medications to surgery. While periodontal disease can be treated, more importantly, it can be prevented. Daily brushing and flossing, regular dental check-ups, and quitting tobacco use are the best defense against periodontal disease.