What is Periodontal (Gum) Disease?

What is Periodontal (Gum) Disease?

Periodontal disease is also known as gum disease or periodontitis. There are various stages of gum disease, and the two most common forms are gingivitis and adult periodontitis. Gingivitis is an inflammation or infection of the gums (gingiva) that is an early stage of periodontal disease. When left untreated, gingivitis may progress to periodontal disease, which can progress to the loss of teeth. Only a professional –a dentist or periodontist –can diagnose gum disease, which often is painless. Research shows that periodontal disease may also be linked to heart, lung, kidney and respiratory disease, and to premature birth.

How does it progress?

A combination of bacteria and acids in the mouth form a sticky deposit called dental plaque that clings to the teeth. Plaque that is not removed from the teeth hardens into calculus and tartar, which aggravate the gums. Pockets (filled with plaque) form between the teeth and gums –causing the irritated gums to detach or pull away from the teeth. At this point, the infection has advanced below the gum line and it can then destroy the soft tissue, bone and ligaments that support the teeth. The teeth may become abscessed and loose, and even fall out. Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of gingivitis are inflamed, swollen gums that bleed easily when they are brushed or flossed. Many times bad breath is present and there are times when there is little or no pain in the early stages. The late stage symptoms of periodontitis are loose teeth, spaces in between the teeth, pain upon chewing, pus around the teeth or gums, or abscessed teeth. Receding gums may be a symptom and the tooth may appear to look longer because the gums are withdrawing. Also the teeth may be sensitive to cold, hot and sugars.


Ilonka Hofmann