Periodontal disease, also know as gum disease, is one of the most common infections in the United States. More than 75% of adults aged 35 and older have some form of periodontal disease.
The main cause of periodontal disease is bacterial plaque: the sticky, colorless film that forms on your teeth. Daily brushing and flossing can help prevent plaque buildup.
If not removed, plaque can turn into a hard substance called calculus, which is so hard it can only be removed by a professional cleaning. Bacterial plaque produces toxins or poisons that cause infection, leading to gingivitis.
Gingivitis is the mildest form of periodontal disease. It causes the gums to become red and swollen, and to bleed easily. Gingivitis causes little or no discomfort and is reversible with professional treatment and good home oral care.
Left untreated, the toxins produced by bacterial plaque can destroy the supporting bone and tissue that surround the teeth, and cause gingivitis to advance to periodontitis. As this occurs, the gums begin to separate from the teeth to form pockets that fill with even more plaque and toxins.
In its most advanced stages, periodontitis causes extensive bone and tissue loss, causing teeth to come loose, which often requires the removal of the affected teeth.
Periodontal disease can affect one tooth or many teeth. Often, teeth in the front of the mouth will be unaffected when teeth in the back have loosened due to advanced periodontitis.
You may have periodontal disease if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Gums that bleed easily
- Red, swollen, tender gums
- Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
- Persistent bad breath or unpleasant taste in your mouth
- Pus between your teeth and gums
- Loose or separating permanent teeth
- Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- Any change in the fit of partial dentures