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Periodontal Diseases

What is Periodontal Disease? | Causes | Warning Signs | Diseases | Factors

What is Periodontal Disease?

Taken from the Greek, the word periodontal literally translates to the study of that which is around the tooth. Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease is a chronic bacterial infection that can damage the gums and bone supporting the teeth. Left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss. Periodontists are the dental professionals who specialize in treating diseases of periodontium (the supporting structures of the tooth.

What causes Periodontal Gum Diseases?

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that clings to teeth and gums. Even if you brush and clean between your teeth every day, you may not completely remove plaque, especially around the gum line. The bacteria in plaque create toxins that injure the gums and underlying bone. Over time, these toxins can destroy gum and bone tissue.

How you know you are at risk? Warning Signs of Periodontal Disease

The following signs may offer you some insight in whether or not you suffer from gum disease. If you have any of the following signs, contact our office right away, so that tooth and bone loss may be mitigated. If you have already lost teeth as a result of periodontal disease, then a periodontist can advise you on permanent tooth replacements, otherwise known as dental implants.
  • Bleeding from your gums when you brush
  • Red, swollen or tender gums
  • Bad breath or bad taste
  • Loose teeth
  • Gums that have pulled away from your teeth
  • Pus in between your teeth and gums when you press down on the gums
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite down
  • Any changes in the fit of partial dentures.

It is possible not to have these warning signs and still have gum disease. Also, most people do not feel pain with the disease. This is why regular checkups are important.

Periodontal Diseases

Approximately 75 percent of all Americans have some form of periodontal disease. Bacteria in plaque causes your gums to become inflamed and a chronic infection can impact on the gums and bone that support your teeth. If left untreated, gum disease can destroy the bone and tissue surrounding the teeth, causing the bone to become loose and in some cases, painful. In addition, gum disease can cause bad breath and change the appearance of your smile. If your condition progresses far enough you can lose your teeth and affect your health in general.
Periodontal diseases fit into broad classifications:
  1. Gingivitis - The earliest stage of gum disease.
    • Inflammation of the gums
    • Plaque and tartar build up is present at the gum line
    • Gums are red and puffy
    • Gums may bleed when you brush or floss
    • Bone and fibers holding your teeth in place have not yet been affected
    • With treatment, gingivitis can be reversed.
  2. Mild periodontitis

    If the gingivitis is left untreated, the infection spreads from the gums to the bone. This process begins to destroy the bone that supports the teeth.
  3. Moderate to severe periodontitis
    • Plaque has spread to the roots of your teeth
    • Infection continues to worsen
    • This infection has damaged the supporting bone and fibers that hold your teeth in place
    • Gums may have begun to pull away from your teeth forming a "pocket" below the gum line, which traps food, bacteria, plaque
    • Immediate treatment can stop further damage and tooth loss
  4. Advanced periodontitis

    At this final stage of gum disease, the fibers and bone that support your teeth are destroyed, causing your teeth to loosen and move. The movement of your teeth can affect your bite, causing further dental problems aidn if not treated to save these teeth, they may need to be removed to prevent further damage.
  5. Juvenile periodontitis

There is great variability within these classifications as to the cause and extent of deterioration.

Factors that might contribute to Periodontal Disease


Tobacco users are more likely to get periodontal disease and suffer from the more severe forms. Also, healing following therapy may take more time.

Some hormonal changes can cause the gums to become red and tender and bleed easily. Any preexisting periodontal disease can become more severe.

Stress can make it more difficult for the body to fight off infection, including periodontal disease.

Some drugs, such as oral contraceptives, antidepressants and certain heart medicines, can affect oral health. You should always inform our office of the medicines you are taking and changes in your health history.

These habits can put excess force on the supporting tissues of the teeth and could speed up the rate at which these tissues are destroyed.

Periodontal disease can be more severe in uncontrolled diabetics. In addition, untreated periodontal disease can make it harder for uncontrolled diabetics to keep their diabetes under control.

A diet low in important nutrients can also make it harder for the body to fight off infection.

Diseases that interfere with the body's immune system may worsen the condition of the gums.

Some 30% of the population are genetically vulnerable to gum disease regardless of how well they care for their teeth. A genetic test can show if you are at risk and whether or not you should regularly visit a periodontist to keep your teeth healthy over your lifetime.