Activity 5C: Plaque Accumulation

Use the handout “Healthy Gums, Gingivitis, and Periodontitis” for this activity.

HEALTHY GUMS: Discuss with the students that healthy gums are firm and don't bleed when brushing. Explain how the best way to keep gums healthy is to brush and floss daily and to have regular checkups and cleanings.

GINGIVITIS: If plaque goes untreated, it will inflame the gums and they will bleed when brushing. The plaque will eventually become calculus. Calculus is a hard deposit caused by bacterial plaque formed on the teeth. When this occurs the gums become red, swollen, sore, and will bleed. This is the beginning stage of the periodontal disease known as gingivitis. Gingivitis is a mild inflammation of the gums in the early stages, but can lead to red and puffy gums that bleed. Bone and fibers of the teeth are unaffected at this point. Gingivitis is a silent disease because there are no painful signs telling the diseased person that he or she has gingivitis. With dental treatment the condition can be stopped.

PERIODONTITIS: If the person does not visit a dentist on a regular basis, the plaque build-up will continue until it becomes periodontitis. In this stage the plaque spreads to the roots of the teeth and infection takes place. If untreated, the infection begins to damage the bone and fibers supporting the tooth. The gums may begin to pull away from the teeth. Bacteria filled pockets form. The gums and the bone begin to recede from the tooth. A periodontist can stop further damage to the gums and bone. In this later stage the infection continues to destroy bone and fibers. The gums recede more. Roots of the teeth are exposed. The ligaments that connect teeth to the bone are no longer strong enough to hold them intact. As they shift or loosen, the person's bite may change. Treatment can still be given in this late stage of the disease. Without dental care, the teeth become loose and are eventually lost. After this explanation, have the students write what can be done at each stage in order to save the teeth.

Other factors that may affect the gums are: age (the gums recede a bit with age), use of cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and some medications.


Smokeless tobacco, bacteria, bone, jaw, plaque, gingiva, gingivitis, periodontitis, oral hygiene, calculus, oral health habit, brush, floss, periodontal disease, tooth loss

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Activity Code: 
Unit Reference: 
Watch Your Mouth
Lesson Reference: 
Lesson 5: Pathology