Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, damages the surrounding soft tissues and bone that support the teeth. It is mainly caused by the buildup of bacteria, mucus and other particles in the form of plaque or tartar that sit between the teeth and gums. There is a range of periodontal disease that can begin as a simple gum inflammation, also known as gingivitis, to more severe inflammation of the periodontal tissues, known as periodontitis. If left untreated periodontal disease can result in significant tissue damage and eventual tooth loss.
The issue with periodontal disease is that often the symptoms and progression are painless. As a result, the affected individual may not be aware they have the disease and it goes untreated. This is why it is important to recognize the signs of the earliest stage of periodontal disease, which is gingivitis. Gingivitis symptoms typically include red, swollen and bleeding gums. At this stage, treatment is often sufficient to reverse the course of the disease and to avoid any permanent damage to the periodontal tissues. Treatment includes a series of deep dental cleanings, an improved home care regimen, and a commitment to regular maintenance. This is all that may be required to prevent this stage of periodontal disease from progressing.
If left untreated, however, gingivitis can progress into periodontitis. There are, however, other factors that can contribute to the escalation of periodontal disease, which include smoking, genetic tendencies, and unchecked diabetes. At any rate, when periodontal disease has progressed to a more advanced stage there is usually clinical and radiographic evidence of damage to the bone and soft tissues supporting the teeth. At this stage, periodontal treatment is designed to stop the progression of the disease and to restore tooth support as much as possible. The process includes medications to control the bacteria and reduce the size of the pockets between the teeth and gums, gum surgery, as well as bone and tissue grafts.