Periodontal Gum Disease

What is periodontal gum disease?

Periodontal gum disease, also known as periodontitis or gum disease, is a bacterial infection that affects the gums and the bones that support the teeth. It is a chronic condition that can lead to tooth loss if left untreated.


Who’s at risk for periodontal gum disease?

Everyone is at risk of developing periodontal gum disease, but some factors may increase the risk, including:

  • Poor dental hygiene habits, such as not brushing or flossing regularly
  • Smoking or tobacco use
  • Age (older adults are more susceptible)
  • Genetics
  • Certain health conditions, such as diabetes or HIV/AIDS
  • Medications that decrease saliva production


What causes periodontal gum disease?

Periodontal gum disease is caused by bacteria in dental plaque, a sticky film that forms on teeth. When plaque is not removed by brushing and flossing, it can harden into tartar, which can only be removed by a dental professional. Tartar buildup can lead to inflammation of the gums, which can eventually cause the gums to pull away from the teeth and form pockets. These pockets can become infected, and the infection can spread to the bones that support the teeth.


How does periodontal gum disease start?

Periodontal gum disease starts with plaque buildup on teeth. When plaque is not removed by regular brushing and flossing, it can harden into tartar, which can lead to inflammation and infection of the gums. Over time, the infection can spread to the bones that support the teeth and cause tooth loss.


What are the symptoms of periodontal gum disease?

The symptoms of periodontal gum disease can include:

  • Red, swollen, or tender gums
  • Bleeding gums during brushing or flossing
  • Receding gums, making teeth appear longer
  • Loose or shifting teeth
  • Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth
  • Changes in the way teeth fit together when biting or chewing


How is periodontal gum disease diagnosed?

Periodontal gum disease is diagnosed by a dental professional during a regular dental exam. The dentist or hygienist will use a special tool called a periodontal probe to measure the depth of the pockets between the teeth and gums. X-rays may also be taken to see if there is any bone loss.


How can periodontal gum disease be treated?

Treatment for periodontal gum disease depends on the severity of the condition. In the early stages, treatment may involve improving dental hygiene habits and receiving a professional cleaning to remove tartar buildup. More advanced cases may require deep cleaning procedures such as scaling and root planing, which remove plaque and tartar from beneath the gums. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to treat severe periodontal disease or to replace lost bone and tissue.


What complications may occur with periodontal gum disease?

If left untreated, periodontal gum disease can lead to serious complications such as:

  • Tooth loss
  • Gum abscesses
  • Recurring infections
  • Bone loss in the jaw
  • Increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and other systemic health conditions


How can I prevent periodontal gum disease?

The best way to prevent periodontal gum disease is to maintain good oral hygiene habits, including:

  • Brushing teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
  • Flossing daily to remove plaque and food particles between teeth
  • Using an antiseptic mouthwash to kill bacteria
  • Regular dental checkups and cleanings


Long-term management of periodontal gum disease

Periodontal gum disease is a chronic condition that requires ongoing management to prevent progression and tooth loss. This may include regular dental cleanings, daily brushing and flossing, and possibly additional treatments such as surgery or antibiotics.

To manage periodontal gum disease long-term, it is important to:

  • Practice good oral hygiene habits
  • Follow the treatment plan recommended by your dental professional
  • Maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle


Periodontal gum disease is a common condition that affects many people. While it can lead to serious complications, such as tooth loss and even systemic health problems, it is often preventable with good oral hygiene and regular dental checkups. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of gum disease, such as redness, swelling, bleeding, and bad breath, and to seek treatment promptly if they are present. With early intervention, many cases of gum disease can be successfully treated and managed, allowing for healthy teeth and gums, and improved overall health and well-being.


If you suspect you may have gum disease, or if you simply want to learn more about how to maintain good oral health, consider scheduling an appointment with a dentist or dental hygienist. They can provide a thorough evaluation of your teeth and gums, and offer personalized recommendations for keeping your smile healthy and bright. Additionally, there are many resources available online and through community organizations that provide information and support for people dealing with gum disease.


Here are some additional tips and resources for managing and preventing periodontal gum disease:

  • Practice good oral hygiene habits, including brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and using mouthwash as directed by your dentist or dental hygienist.
  • Consider using an electric toothbrush or other tools to help improve your oral hygiene routine.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet that is low in sugar and high in nutrients that support oral health, such as calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin C.
  • Avoid smoking and using tobacco products, which can increase your risk of gum disease and other oral health problems.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings, and discuss any concerns you may have about your oral health.
  • Take advantage of resources such as the American Dental Association (ADA) and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) to learn more about gum disease and other oral health issues.

With proper care and attention, you can keep your gums healthy and avoid the complications associated with periodontal gum disease.


What is recent research saying about periodontal gum disease?

Recent research has suggested a link between periodontal gum disease and other health conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and certain types of cancer. However, more research is needed to fully understand these connections.


Where can I go for more information on periodontal gum disease?

The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) and the American Dental Association (ADA) both provide information on periodontal gum disease and how to prevent and treat it.