What Is Periodontal Disease?

What Is Periodontal Disease?

What Is It?

Periodontal disease is another term for gum disease, and it refers to an infection of the tissue that surrounds and holds your teeth in place. There are two distinct stages to periodontal disease: The first stage, gingivitis, involves swelling and reddening of the gum tissue. The second, periodontitis, can mean the gums actually pulling away from teeth, bones deteriorating, and teeth loosening and potentially falling out.

What Causes It?

The simplest explanation for what causes periodontal disease is bacteria. The bacteria in the mouth, left unchecked, forms a film on the teeth called plaque that eventually hardens into tartar (calculus). This tartar spreads — sometimes below the gum line — and this infection causes inflammation and damage to teeth, gums, and bone.

What Are Its Risk Factors?

While bacteria is the main culprit behind periodontal disease, there are a number of behaviors or factors that can put a person at higher risk of it developing and progressing. Some of the leading risk factors are:

• Smoking

• Poor oral hygiene

• Diabetes

• Diseases that suppress the immune system

• Medications that reduce saliva production

• Hormonal changes in girls and women

• Stress

• Crooked teeth

• Genetic predisposition

What Are Its Warning Signs?

Some of the most common and obvious signs of periodontal disease include:

• Red/swollen gums

• Tender/bleeding gums

• Persistent bad breath or bad taste in the mouth

• Sensitive teeth

• Pain when chewing

• Changes to your bite

• Pulling away of gum tissue from teeth

• Loose teeth

How Is It Treated?

Once the dentist or hygienist has diagnosed the periodontal disease, the first thing for patients to keep in mind is that the success of any treatment option is going to depend on their willingness to keep up good oral hygiene habits at home. That said, the early stage of periodontal disease — gingivitis — can be treated with regular cleanings from your hygienist in concert with daily brushing and flossing. More advanced periodontal disease might require more aggressive treatment options, such as deep-cleaning of the roots below the gum surface, antibiotics or other medications taken orally or placed below the gums, and even oral surgery.

Additional Facts About Periodontal Disease

According to the CDC:

• 47% of all adults over 30 have some form of periodontal disease

• 70% of adults over 65 have the disease

• Periodontal disease is more common in men (56%) than in women (38%)

• 64% of current smokers have periodontal disease