Periodontal (Perry-o-DON-tal) disease is an infection affecting the tissues and bone that support your teeth. It is also called gum disease.
Taking good care of your teeth and gums isn't just about preventing cavities or bad breath. A surprisingly wide variety of bacteria are normally found in your mouth. When certain types of bacteria outgrow the others, this starts the process of gum disease.
The mouth is a window into the health of the body. It can show if you are not eating foods that are best for you or if you may be at risk for a disease. Diseases that affect the entire body (such as diabetes) may be noticed because of mouth sores or other oral problems.
The mouth is filled with many bacteria. Some of these bacteria are linked to tooth decay and periodontal (perry-oh-DON-tal, or gum) disease. Periodontal disease may be connected with diabetes, heart disease and stroke. The exact connection is not yet known.
When your gums are healthy, your gum tissues tightly hug each of your teeth. When you have gum disease, your gums pull away from your teeth. As the gum disease gets worse, the tissues and bones that support your teeth become damaged. Over time, your teeth may fall out or need to be removed. Treating periodontal disease in the early stages can help prevent tooth loss.
Periodontal disease is an ongoing inflammation caused by bacteria that live in plaque. Plaque is the sticky, colorless film that forms constantly on the teeth and tissues in the mouth. The bacteria in plaque irritate the gums, making them red, tender and likely to bleed. This condition is called gingivitis (jin-ja-VY-tis), and it can lead to more serious types of periodontal disease.
Gingivitis can be reversed if you remove plaque before it builds up. You can do this by brushing twice a day, flossing daily and having your teeth cleaned regularly in the dental office.
If you do not get rid of gingivitis, it can turn into periodontitis (perry-o-don-TIE-tis), an infection in the spaces between the teeth and gums and around the teeth. Periodontitis is usually not painful. Even so, it can damage the attachment of the gums and bone to the teeth. It can even lead to bone loss. If the disease is not treated at this stage, your teeth may become loose, fall out or require removal by a dentist.
If you notice any of the signs below, see your dentist. However, you can have gum disease and not notice any of these warning signs. That is why regular dental checkups are very important.
Your gum disease treatment will depend on several factors, including your personal health history and the stage of your gum disease:
Learn more from the American Dental Association: