Complications of gum disease 

If you develop gingivitis and don't have the plaque or tartar (hardened plaque) removed from your teeth, the condition may get worse and lead to periodontitis.

You may develop further complications if you don't treat periodontitis (where the tissue that supports teeth is affected), including:

  • recurrent gum abscesses (painful collections of pus)
  • increasing damage to the periodontal ligament (the tissue that connects the tooth to the socket)
  • increasing damage to and loss of the alveolar bone (the bone in the jaw that contains the sockets of the teeth)
  • receding gums
  • loose teeth
  • loss of teeth

Acute necrotising ulcerative gingivitis

If you have acute necrotising ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG) and it's not treated, it can cause more severe complications.

The infection can spread to all areas of your gums and the alveolar bone surrounding your teeth. This can lead to:

  • the gums between your teeth being completely destroyed
  • large ulcers (open sores) leaving permanent holes in your gums
  • loose and unstable teeth

If ANUG isn't properly treated the first time you have it, you're more likely to have recurring cases in the future. This can cause persistent bad breath (halitosis) and bleeding gums, as well as gradually receding gums.

In rare cases, ANUG can lead to gangrene affecting the lips and cheeks. This occurs when tissue starts to die and waste away. If you develop gangrene, you may need to have the dead tissue removed.

Other complications

Gum disease has also been associated with an increased risk for a number of other health conditions, including:

However, while people with gum disease may have an increased risk of these problems, there isn't currently any clear evidence that gum disease directly causes them.

Page last reviewed: 04/02/2016

Next review due: 04/02/2018