What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease is more commonly known as gum disease. Listen as Dr. Maria Lopez Howell explains how to prevent, detect and treat periodontal disease.

Edmond R. Hewlett, DDS
Periodontal disease is an infection that affects the tissues and bone that support the teeth. Healthy gum tissue fits like a cuff around each tooth. When someone has periodontal disease, the gum tissue pulls away from the tooth. As the disease worsens, the tissue and bone that support the tooth are destroyed. Over time, teeth may fall out or need to be removed. Treating periodontal disease in the early stages can help prevent tooth loss.

It can be hard to know if you have periodontal disease. That's why good oral hygiene, regular dental checkups and periodontal exams are so important.
The more severe form of gingivitis (a condition in which the gums are red and swollen) is called periodontal disease. In this stage the gums pull away from the teeth. Pockets form between the teeth and gums and these pockets fill with germs and pus. If this happens, gum surgery may be needed to save your teeth. Toxins made by the germs in plaque irritate the gums. They may cause the bone around your teeth to wear away. If you lose bone, you can lose teeth and dentures are hard to fit. These same toxins could travel to your heart and other parts of the body and cause harm.
Periodontal disease is a severe disease of the gums. With periodontal disease, there can be bleeding of the gums, redness, inflammation, separation of the gum from the teeth, infections with pus, and sometimes loosened teeth. Such infections of the gums are common, especially in older adults.

Prevention is important for periodontal disease, and includes brushing your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and flossing at least once a day. Seeing your dentist for regular teeth cleaning and removal of plaque and tartar (calculus) is also vital to prevent periodontal disease.

If you have signs of periodontal disease, your dentist will perform  procedures to remove the hardened tartar between the gum and the teeth and stimulate healthy gums. If left untreated, periodontal disease causes deterioration of the gums, pain, bone infections, and tooth loss.
Michael T. Murray, ND
Naturopathic Medicine

Periodontal disease is an inclusive term used to describe an inflammatory condition of the gums (gingivitis) and/or support structures (periodontitis). The periodontal disease process typically progresses from gingivitis to periodontitis.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.