Periodontal Disease FAQs
What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal (gum) disease is an infection of the tissue that surrounds and supports the teeth. Plaque is the sticky film of bacteria that is brushed and flossed away with proper oral care. When left on the teeth, plaque produces toxins that attack below the gum line in the sulcus, a shallow V-shaped crevice between the tooth and gums. This causes the bond between teeth and gums to break down. If left untreated, periodontal disease may also cause tooth loss.
Are there different kinds of periodontal disease?
Yes. In the early stage of gum disease, also known as gingivitis, gums may become red and swollen, and bleed easily. In the more advanced stage, referred to as periodontal disease or periodontitis, teeth can loosen and even fall out. Proper oral hygiene and regular dental examinations are essential in prevention and early detection of gum disease.
What are the signs of periodontal disease?
Signs of periodontal disease include:
- Gums that are red, swollen, tender, bleed easily or have pulled away from the teeth
- Persistent bad breath or bad taste
- Loose or separating teeth
- A change in the way the teeth fit together
- A change in the fit of partial dentures
Sometimes there are no warning signs, making proper dental hygiene and regular visits to the dentist very important.
What increases the risk for periodontal disease?
The risk of developing periodontal disease may be related to the following habits and conditions:
- Tobacco smoking or chewing
- Systemic diseases such as diabetes
- Medications such as steroids, anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs and calcium channel blockers
- Pregnancy or use of oral contraceptives
- Crooked teeth
- Worn bridges or fillings
What is the treatment for periodontal disease?
A patient is normally referred to a periodontist, who treats periodontal disease. Periodontitis is treated based on its severity and progression. Treatments may include:
Scaling and Root Planing
This is a deep-cleaning method that removes bacteria from below the gum line and the tooth root.
Antibiotics or antimicrobial medications may be used to fight infection, and reduce the size of the gum pockets that have developed because of periodontitis.
If other methods of treatment are ineffective, flap surgery may be performed to lift away gum tissue so that it can be cleaned underneath. Gum or bone grafts may also be performed to help regenerate any bone or gum tissue that has been damaged or lost due to periodontitis.
Can periodontal disease be prevented?
Plaque is the most common cause of periodontal disease that can be prevented with proper dental hygiene. Other recommendations to prevent periodontal disease include:
- Don't smoke
- Eat a healthy diet
- Floss and brush teeth daily
- See a dentist regularly
It is important to see a dentist promptly if experiencing the signs of gum disease to prevent more serious complications from occurring.
- Medline Plus
- National Institutes of Health
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
- U.S. National Library of Medicine