What is Periodontal (Gum) Disease?

Periodontal (around the tooth) disease, also known as periodontitis or gum disease is a common condition where inflammation of the gums is present. This inflammation usually affects the tissue supporting and surrounding the tooth, but in severe cases can affect the jawbone. Periodontal disease is usually preceded by gingivitis, which is a mild bacterial infection of the gum tissue that starts when toxins contained in plaque (enzymes) start irritating and causing inflammation in the gum tissue. The bacteria colonizes inside the gum pockets next to and between the teeth, becoming much more difficult to treat and leading, as the disease progresses, to destruction of connective tissue, bone tissue and, if left untreated, will cause shifting and loose teeth and, eventually, the death and loss of the tooth or teeth.

Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults in the United States.

There may be little or no symptoms as periodontal disease separates the tooth from the infected gums producing pockets that are continually deepening as bacterial growth progresses. Deepening pockets are a sign that soft tissue and bone are being destroyed by periodontal disease. There are some systemic diseases that increase the risk of development of periodontitis, such as diabetes, heart disease and respiratory diseases.