Inflammation of the gums is called gingivitis. Bacteria in plaque around the teeth release enzymes (collagenases) that can damage and erode the gum tissues. The infected gums swell, bleed easily, recede, and loosen from the teeth. Tooth loss is caused more frequently by gum disease than tooth decay.
Review Date: 5/21/2012
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital.