Yet periodontitis is both preventable and treatable. Although factors such as smoking, heredity, medications and lowered immunity make you more susceptible to gum disease, the most common cause is poor oral hygiene. Daily brushing and flossing and regular professional cleanings can greatly reduce your chances of developing periodontitis.
Plaque that stays on your teeth longer than two or three days can harden under your gumline into tartar (calculus), a white substance that makes plaque more difficult to remove and that acts as a reservoir for bacteria. Unfortunately, brushing and flossing can’t eliminate tartar — only a professional cleaning can remove it.
To check the health of your gum tissue, your dentist is likely to use a metal probe to measure the depth of the gingival sulcus, the groove between your gums and your teeth. The probe is inserted beside your tooth beneath your gumline, usually at several sites throughout your mouth.