Nearly 65 million people in the United States are suffering from gum disease. That translates to about half of all adults 30 and older, according to the American Academy of Periodontology. And those sufferers also are putting their lives in danger. Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria in the mouth that form plaque below the gum line. There are more than 500 bacterial species that can be found in plaque, and brushing alone does not remove the bacteria below the gum line. The disease typically does not cause pain until it’s in an advanced stage. At that point, much of the damage has been done. The disease causes receding gums, bone damage in the mouth and loss of teeth. It also can increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and even cancer. The AAP prevention program encourages people to brush their teeth twice a day, floss at least once a day and get a comprehensive exam from a dental professional once a year.