You can have a healthy smile that will last a lifetime with proper care. This means thorough daily brushing, cleaning between teeth and regular checkups to avoid tooth decay and periodontal diseases.

Most people know that tooth decay can result in tooth loss if not treated. But for adults, it is periodontal (gum) diseases that are a major cause of tooth loss.

"Periodontal" comes from two Greek words that mean "around the tooth." Healthy gum tissue and bone form the supporting foundation of each tooth.

Periodontal diseases are caused by bacterial infections that attack gums, ligaments and bone. Although the body has some natural defenses that resist bacterial attacks, these may not fully protect gum and bone tissues from inflammation and infection.

There are several kinds of periodontal disease. Often painless, these diseases may develop slowly or progress quite rapidly. And they can occur at any age. Unless you have regular dental checkups, including a periodontal exam, you may not be aware you have a problem until your gums and bone have been seriously compromised.