Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease, or gum disease, occurs when bacteria attack the gums and bone, resulting in bad breath, receding gums and tooth loss. The following information outlines the causes, signs, treatment and prevention of periodontal disease.

PDA member, Dr. Daniel Fishel, discusses prevention and symptoms of gum disease.


What causes periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is caused by the plaque-forming bacteria in your mouth. While brushing and flossing remove most plaque, it is impossible to eliminate all of it. The remaining plaque hardens into tartar. When this tartar forms under the gumline, it can irritate and infect the gums, leading to gum disease.

What are the warning signs?
This disease can be painless, develop rapidly, and is difficult to notice, so regular checkups are crucial. See your dentist immediately if you see any of the following warning signs:

  • Gums bleed easily or are red, swollen or tender.
  • Gums are pulling away from teeth.
  • Pus appears between gums and teeth when gums are pressed.
  • You have constant bad breath or taste.
  • Your permanent teeth are loose or separating.
  • There is a change in teeth alignment.
  • You experience changes in the fit of partial dentures.

What are types of periodontal diseases?
Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease and occurs when bacteria get in between the tooth and the gum, causing inflammation. If promptly taken care of, gingivitis can be cured. Periodontitis is more serious because the tissue that holds teeth to the bone is destroyed, causing tooth roots to be exposed and increasing decay, inflammation and receding gums, resulting in possible tooth loss.

How are periodontal diseases treated?
Treatment depends on the progression of the disease. First the dentist will thoroughly clean your teeth, especially under the gumline. Often, special antibiotics or mouthwashes will be prescribed, or antibiotic fibers will be put in the gums' pockets to speed up healing and prevent infection. When very deep pockets have developed in the gums, surgery may be required because plaque will continue to invade these areas.

How can I prevent periodontal disease?
Take the following actions to prevent periodontal disease:

  • Brush your teeth properly at least twice a day. (Use a toothpaste with fluoride and replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months.) Be sure to use dental floss or other interdental cleaners daily to get between the teeth and under the gums.
  • Ask your dentist to recommend an antibacterial mouthrinse for extra cleansing.
  • Maintain a healthy diet.
  • See your dentist at least twice a year.


Simple Steps to Better Dental Health: Gingivitis
Simple Steps to Better Dental Health: Periodontis