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Complications of gum disease

NHS ChoicesMedical Reference

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

If you do not treat periodontitis (where the tissue that supports teeth is affected), you may develop further complications 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 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 is 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 is not properly treated the first time you have it, you are more likely to have recurring cases in future. This can leave you with:


In very rare cases, ANUG can lead to a condition called gangrene. Gangrene occurs when tissue starts to die and waste away. The type of gangrene that can occur as a result of ANUG is called noma.

Noma affects lips and cheeks. If you develop it, you may need to have the dead tissue removed. Noma usually only affects people who:

  • have a very weak immune system - for example, those with conditions such as HIV and AIDS
  • are  malnourished - do not eat enough of the right food groups to get the nutrients they need for good health
Medical Review: March 21, 2012

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