Periodontal Disease

Periodontal Disease (also known as "periodontal infection", "gum disease" or "pyorrhea") is an ongoing bacterial infection in the gums and bone that support your teeth. This infection leads to an inflammation under the gums, and if not treated, this inflammation can destroy the bone around your teeth. This results in tooth loss. 75% of all adult tooth loss is due to periodontal inflammation.

How Does An "Ongoing Infection" Work?

When you were a child, did you ever get a bad scrape that got all red and swollen? That was caused by bacteria that got under your skin. The area then became infected. It may have lasted for days or weeks, but eventually the infection went away. The inflammation disappeared when your immune system conquered the bacteria and the infection healed.

With an ONGOING infection, your immune system never wins the battle. The infection keeps growing and the inflammation never goes away. Periodontal disease is an ongoing infection in the pockets around your teeth. Your immune system is losing the battle and, without treatment, it will get worse.

What Can Cause a "Burst" of Infection Activity?

People with periodontal disease show a weakened resistance to periodontal bacteria. This causes an ongoing gum infection that grows in "bursts" of activity. Each time it grows, more support for your teeth is lost. Some factors that can cause a "burst" of activity are:

  1. Poor oral hygiene
  2. Dental plaque
  3. Smoking
  4. Genetic factors
  5. Stress or tension
  6. Diet
  7. Age
  8. Illness
Getting Periodontal Infection Treated Right Away

When your infection has a burst of activity, or when there are signs that this is about to occur, your general dentist may recommend you see a periodontist.

Symptoms of Periodontal Infection

Periodontal infection is usually painless until it reaches an advanced stage. However, there are some symptoms that can indicate the presence of periodontal infection.

Symptoms of Advanced Periodontal Disease:

  1. Red or swollen gums
  2. Bleeding when brushing (pink toothbrush), or at other times
  3. Aching, itchy, sore or tender gums
  4. Receding gums (teeth beginning to look longer)
  5. Bad breath
  6. Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  7. Loose, separating or protruding teeth
  8. Spaces between teeth

If you notice any of the above warning signs of periodontal infection, please contact your general dentist and ask for a periodontal evaluation.

Important Note: Your gums can look and feel quite normal and yet deep pockets of periodontal infection can still be present. To be certain about any periodontal disease, ask your dentist or periodontist to examine your gums for signs of infection.

Who is a Periodontist?

Your general dentist is trained to detect and treat the early stages of periodontal disease. A periodontist is a dentist with advanced training in the diagnosis and treatment of periodontal disease. Periodontists also provide other treatments, such as crown lengthening and dental implant placement (see the Procedures Section ).