What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease is one of the most common dental problems. While more often found in adults, it can afflict just about any person of any age.

The disease is not very noticeable until its more damaging stages. The initial stage begins when the plaque is not properly removed through regular brushing and flossing.

Gingivitis Leads to Periodontal Disease

Unremoved plaque causes bacteria to thrive in the mouth that results in gum inflammation. Known as gingivitis, the condition is characterized by red, swollen gums that are easily prone to bleeding. For the most part, this can be reversed by a combination of regular brushing and flossing, as well as dental cleanings. When neglected, plaque hardens and turns into tartar, which cannot be removed without the help of a dentist or dental hygienist.

If gingivitis is left untreated, it can eventually lead to periodontal disease. Periodontitis (meaning inflammation around the tooth) is characterized by gums pulling away from the tooth due to the inflammation. As they pull away, they form spaces of pockets which become infected. As the plaque spreads into these pockets and below the gum line, the body responds and sends antibodies to combat the infection.

Unfortunately, as these combine with bacterial toxins, it leads to the breakdown of the bone and connective tissues that hold the teeth in place. If not treated, the bone and surrounding tissue become completely destroyed, and the loosened tooth has to be removed to prevent the spread of infection.

Other Causes

While untreated plaque is the most common cause of periodontal disease, there are also other ways which the disease can be cultivated and eventually lead to tooth loss. This includes, smoking, hormonal changes in women and genetic susceptibility, among others.