Periodontitis is an advanced stage of gum disease caused by a buildup of plaque and bacteria between the teeth and gums. It causes the gums to pull away from the teeth, creating deep pockets in which the bacteria can grow, damaging bone that supports teeth. When periodontitis is left untreated, gums become increasingly painful, and tooth loss may result.
Symptoms of Periodontitis
Depending on the progression of the disease, symptoms of periodontitis may include:
- Swollen and sore gums
- Red or inflamed gums
- Gums that bleed easily
- Gums that recede from the teeth
- Loose teeth
- Chronic bad breath
- Pain when chewing
Causes of Periodontitis
Periodontitis is often caused by a buildup of plaque, a film composed of bacteria that coats the teeth after eating. Smoking can increase the progression of gum disease. When left untreated, gum disease can progress into periodontitis, which is a more serious stage of the disease. At this stage, the gums are extremely inflamed and start to pull away from the teeth. Teeth may begin to loosen as bones and ligaments start breaking down.
Treatment of Periodontitis
A patient is normally referred to a periodontist to treat periodontitis, which is treated based on its severity and progression. Treatment may include:
Scaling and Root Planing
This is a deep-cleaning method that removes bacteria from below the gum line and the tooth root. A local anesthetic may be used to numb the gums and the roots of the teeth.
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.
Prevention of Periodontitis
Plaque is the most common cause of periodontitis that can be prevented with proper dental hygiene. Other recommendations for preventing periodontitis 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.
- National Institutes of Health
- 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