Board Certified Periodontist, Dr. Scott O. Kissel

Gum Disease

Gum disease is a serious dental condition and the leading cause of tooth loss in adults 35 and older. With more than 3 million new cases of gum disease in the US every year, 3 out of 4 adults will be affected by gum disease at some point in their lifetime. Gum disease, which can be completely prevented by proper oral hygiene including twice daily tooth brushing and daily flossing of the teeth, requires a dentist’s intervention once it is detected in order to stop the spread of the disease.


What is Gum Disease?

Our mouths are full of bacteria, which cause plaque to form on our teeth. While proper brushing and flossing can remove plaque, patients who do not practice proper oral hygiene will see their plaque turn into tartar, which can only be removed by professional teeth cleaning.



The longer you go with plaque and tartar on your teeth, the more likely you are to develop a gum disease called gingivitis, which makes your gums red, swollen and bleed easily. Gingivitis is reversible with proper dental care, but if left untreated, it can turn into periodontitis. This inflammation around the tooth causes gums to pull away from the teeth and form pockets that become infected. If periodontitis is not treated professionally, the bones, gums and tissue that support the teeth can become destroyed, resulting in tooth loss.




Missing teeth can affect your life in several ways:

  • Nutritional deficiencies: patients with missing or loose teeth tend to reach for softer foods that are easy to chew. A soft-food diet often lacks the adequate vitamins, minerals and fiber a body needs to stay healthy. Poor nutrition is directly linked to poor health and can cause a variety of chronic illnesses and diseases.
  • Problems speaking.  Untreated gum disease can interrupt speech due to discomfort.  In order to speak and enunciate, we need teeth. The loss of teeth in adults can affect normal airflow. When we speak out loud, the teeth constantly make contact with the tongue to pronounce the many letter sounds in words. When missing teeth are present, a lisping condition often results, making words harder to say and even harder for others to understand. Teeth also keep the tongue in place. Without them, it can spread and thicken into the gaps between missing teeth, further complicating communication.
  • Bone loss.  Missing teeth cause the jaw bone to deteriorate.  When teeth touch, they stimulate the alveolar bone – the part of the jaw that keeps teeth anchored in place. When teeth fall out, this natural stimulation stops and bone starts to weaken, break down, and even disappear altogether. Even dentures need bone for retention and function.
  • Misaligned teeth.  Teeth depend on each other for optimal functioning. If one or more teeth are missing (a common result of gum disease), the surrounding teeth migrate from their proper positions. When teeth shift or when teeth are loose, the bite is also affected and can cause discomfort in the head, jaw and neck area.
  • Droopy facial muscles. Without the support of teeth, the muscles in the face may begin to sag. The cheeks may appear hollow and the lips of the mouth may sink inward. Missing teeth make people look much older than they are.

What Causes Gum Disease?

In addition to poor oral hygiene, gum disease can be caused by:


  • Clenching & Grinding Teeth
  • Diabetes
  • Medications
  • Stress
  • Poor Nutrition
  • Tobacco Usage
  • Hormonal Changes in Women

Tobacco Usage & Gum Disease

We all know that smoking and chewing tobacco is bad for your health, but did you know that it is also a leading cause of tooth loss? Many studies have linked gum disease with tobacco usage. When you use tobacco, you are more likely to develop calculus on your teeth, form deeper pockets between your gums and your teeth and lose the bone and fibers that hold your teeth in place in your mouth. Additionally, tobacco usage slows down the healing process of gum disease treatment, making tobacco usage even more detrimental for gum disease patients.


In addition to gum disease, tobacco usage can cause cancer in the mouth, oral sores, gum recession, loss of bone, tooth loss, tooth staining and make gum disease and dental implant treatments less effective. If you are a smoker or chew tobacco, the best thing you can do for both your oral and overall health is to quit now. If you need help quitting, talk to Dr. Kissel about getting enrolled in a tobacco cessation program.

Diabetes & Gum Disease

One of the many complications of diabetes is the increased risk of gum disease, especially amongst those with uncontrolled diabetes. Not only may these bacterial infections of the mouth result in tooth decay and loss, they can also inhibit your body’s ability to process insulin, making it even more difficult for you to control your diabetes and blood sugar levels. If you’re a diabetic, you can prevent your risk of developing gum disease by controlling your blood sugar levels and practicing proper oral hygiene, including brushing twice daily, flossing your teeth once a day and having regular professional dental cleanings.

Women & Gum Disease

The various hormonal changes that women undergo in their lifetimes can cause gum disease. During puberty, higher levels of hormones increase gum sensitivity and can cause plaque and food particles to irritate your gums more than usual, causing gums to appear swollen, red and tender. Women who are menstruating may also notice changes in their gums around the time of their period. Pregnancy affects oral health as well by increasing your risk of gum disease, which can affect the health of your baby and even lead to premature labor. Oral contraceptives can also cause swelling, bleeding and tenderness. Finally, menopause can cause women to develop a painful or burning sensation in their gums, and a salty, peppery or sour taste in their mouth. Whatever stage of life a woman is in, proper oral hygiene is of the upmost importance to preventing gum disease.

If your gums are red, swollen, and painful and you believe you have gum disease, call periodontist Dr. Kissel at 212-702-9088 to schedule a consultation with him and come up with a personalized gum disease treatment program to save your teeth.