Patients should generally see a hygienist every 6 months for an exam and cleaning. At this appointment, your gums will be evaluated, x-rays will be taken, and the cleaning will be performed.
Lack of brushing and flossing will cause gingivitis, which is an inflammation of the gums. Healthy gums are pink and come to a point in between teeth. Gums that are inflamed will be red, puffy, and will most likely bleed when brushing and flossing. Swollen gums may be accompanied by bad breath, discharge, and sores on your gums.
If it is left untreated, gingivitis may lead to periodontitis, or bone loss around the teeth. With enough bone loss, the teeth will become mobile and may lead to tooth loss; a patient with periodontitis and loose teeth will often have difficulty chewing. Bone loss around teeth is evaluated via a series of x-rays, mobility (looseness) of teeth, checking pocket depts.
Visiting your general dentist and having cleanings will help to identify problems in their early stages; in some cases, your dentist may refer you to a periodontist, which is a bone and gum specialist. Home care, including brushing and flossing, is very important to help prevent gingivitis.