Periodontal (Gum) Disease

Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Introduction

periodontal If you have been told you have periodontal (gum) disease, you're not alone. An estimated 80 percent of American adults currently have some form of the disease.

Periodontal diseases range from simple gum inflammation to serious disease that results in major damage to the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth. In the worst cases, teeth are lost.

Gum disease is a threat to your oral health. Research is also pointing to possible health effects of periodontal diseases that go well beyond your mouth (more about this later). Whether it is stopped, slowed, or gets worse depends a great deal on how well you care for your teeth and gums every day, from this point forward.

What causes periodontal disease?

Our mouths are full of bacteria. These bacteria, along with mucus and other particles, constantly form a sticky, colorless "plaque" on teeth. Brushing and flossing help get rid of plaque. Plaque that is not removed can harden and form bacteria-harboring "tartar" that brushing doesn't clean. Only a professional cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist can remove tartar.

Gingivitis

The longer plaque and tartar are on teeth, the more harmful they become. The bacteria cause inflammation of the gums that is called "gingivitis." In gingivitis, the gums become red, swollen and can bleed easily. Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that can usually be reversed with daily brushing and flossing, and regular cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist. This form of gum disease does not include any loss of bone and tissue that hold teeth in place.

Periodontitis

When gingivitis is not treated, it can advance to "periodontitis" (which means "inflammation around the tooth.") In periodontitis, gums pull away from the teeth and form "pockets" that are infected. The body's immune system fights the bacteria as the plaque spreads and grows below the gum line. Bacterial toxins and the body's enzymes fighting the infection actually start to break down the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place. If not treated, the bones, gums, and connective tissue that support the teeth are destroyed. The teeth may eventually become loose and have to be removed.

Risk Factors

Smoking. Need another reason to quit smoking? Smoking is one of the most significant risk factors associated with the development of periodontitis. Additionally, smoking can lower the chances of success of some treatments.
Hormonal changes in girls/women. These changes can make gums more sensitive and make it easier for gingivitis to develop.
Diabetes. People with diabetes are at higher risk for developing infections, including periodontal disease.
Stress. Research shows that stress can make it more difficult for our bodies to fight infection, including periodontal disease.
Medications. Some drugs, such as antidepressants and some heart medicines, can affect oral health because they lessen the flow of saliva. (Saliva has a protective effect on teeth and gums.)
Illnesses. Diseases like cancer or AIDS and their treatments can also affect the health of gums.
Genetic susceptibility. Some people are more prone to severe periodontal disease than others.

Adapted from NIH Publication No. 02-1142

Reviewed by Francine Kaufman, MD. 4/08

Last Modified Date: July 01, 2013

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

Sign up for FREE dLife Newsletters

dLife Membership is FREE! Get exclusive access, free recipes, newsletters, savings, and much more! FPO

Congratulations!
You are subscribed!
Congratulations!
You are subscribed!
Congratulations!
You are subscribed!
28 Views 0 comments
by Nicole Purcell
10. I mostly just like the sauce and the cheese. Pizza crust just doesn't do it for me. Unless it's loaded with buttery soft goodness and crunchy outside. 9. It makes my bloodsugar high for days. 8. Nobody makes pizza like my grandmother used to and it's always kind of a disappointment. She made the best pizza. It was a perfect balance of sauce and cheese and toppings and the crust was insanely good. Every time I eat pizza I end up thinking "not like...