What is periodontitis?

Periodontitis is the breakdown of the bone and soft tissue surrounding the teeth. It is caused by the immune system trying to fight off bacteria that surround the teeth. If the bacteria that are causing the problem are not removed, this problem can get worse and the teeth will need to be removed.

If you notice swelling and redness in the tissues around your teeth, you may have periodontitis, a form of periodontal disease. Talk to your dentist right away if you notice these symptoms. Periodontitis occurs when plaque by-products lead to the destruction of the tissues that anchor teeth in the bone. As the disease progresses, pockets form and allow more plaque to collect below the gum line. Tooth roots are exposed and may become at risk for decay and are sensitive to cold and touch. In advanced periodontitis, the teeth lose more support as the disease continues to destroy the periodontal ligament and bone. Unless treated, the affected teeth frequently become loose and may fall out or require removal by a dentist.

Periodontitis is a severe oral disease related to gingivitis. It causes the deterioration of bone and other structures in the mouth. It can lead to tooth loss and even cause other, more serious health problems.

Steven Bradway
Periodontitis is a disease that causes bone loss around teeth. It is a genetically inherited trait that affects about 10-25% of the human population. Being a genetic trait means that it is inherited at birth, it is present for life and it is passed on to the next generation; it is just part of person’s genetic makeup. For about 80% of people with periodontitis the bone loss starts in their mid-30’s, but it rarely causes pain. There are rarer forms that can start as early as age 6 or in early adolescence. In untreated periodontitis, the bone loss proceeds episodically until teeth start loosening.

Tooth loss can occur as early as the mid 50’s with increased risk of tooth loss as the patient grows older. The rate of bone loss is accelerated dramatically by smoking, uncontrolled diabetes and a few other systemic conditions. The bone loss of periodontitis occurs only if the patients gum tissue is inflamed. If the inflammation is eliminated with treatment the bone loss can be stopped and kept in arrest with episodic management.

The treatment to eliminate inflammation can include surgery, but often can be done successfully without surgery depending on the case. Inflammation will always reoccur painlessly and must be identified and eliminated episodically to prevent further bone loss.

It is possible to completely prevent tooth loss to periodontitis, but patients need to have a long-term partnership with a dentist, a hygienist, and/or periodontist to be successful in this process. 
Periodontitis occurs when dental plaque, a thin film that sticks to the teeth, hardens into tartar (calculus). Over time, the accumulation of plaque and tartar causes the gums to pull apart from the teeth. Small spaces or pockets form between the gums and the teeth, and the teeth can become loose. As the gums and teeth break down, the supporting structures weaken and become infected. In advanced stages of periodontitis, the teeth must be pulled.

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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.