Gums in the early stage of disease, or gingivitis, can bleed easily and become red and swollen and tender to flossing. Gum or periodontal disease begins with a sticky film of bacteria called plaque that is easily removed with good tooth brushing habits and daily flossing. However, if left on your teeth over time this film hardens from the deposit of calcium salts in your saliva. It is then called tartar or "calculus" and cannot be removed simply with brushing and flossing.
Gum, or periodontal, disease can cause inflammation, tooth loss and bone damage.
A common indicator of gum disease is consistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth.
Gum disease is highly preventable and can usually be avoided by daily brushing and flossing in conjunction with regular professional cleanings by a licensed dental hygienist. If it has been a long time since your last professional cleaning other types of tissue treatment and even gum surgery may be necessary to restore your mouth to it's healthy state. The ADA and recommends regular visits to your dentist at least twice a year.