Ask the Expert: What is Periodontal Disease?

What is Periodontal Disease? What causes it and how can I prevent it?

Periodontal disease is an infection of the gums, periodontal ligaments, and the bone that holds the teeth in the jaw. It is almost completely painless; unfortunately, it is the most common cause of tooth loss in adults.

Periodontal disease is caused by plaque. The plaque, which is mostly bacteria collects in pockets which form as spaces between the teeth and gums. If the plaque is not removed at least once per day, it hardens to tarter (or calculus). More plaque clings to the tartar, which in turn causes the pocket between the teeth and gums to deepen. As this happens, the infection spreads deeper from the gums to the tiny ligaments that hold the teeth to the gums, and eventually it destroys the bone around the tooth socket.

Symptoms of periodontal disease include gums that bleed when you brush and floss, puffy, swollen, tender red gums, bad breath (halitosis), a bad taste in your mouth, gum recession, loose teeth, bone loss on your dental x-rays, deep pockets when you have you regular periodontal examination and a change in the position of your teeth, or your "bite".

Treating periodontal disease requires a multi-faceted approach. First, you need to make sure you are correctly diagnosed. Then, have your teeth examined and cleaned at least twice a year. Proper flossing and brushing are critical to good periodontal health. Your dental professional may recommend additional oral home care techniques to suit your specific needs. See your dentist today to prevent pain and problems tomorrow.