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What is Periodontal (Gum) Disease?
What are the Signs of Periodontal Disease?
What are the Dangers of Periodontal Disease?
Is there a cure?

What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease affects the gums and supporting structures of the teeth. According to the American Dental Association, at least 60% of adults in the United States have moderate-to-severe periodontal disease! In a recent survey, 63% of Americans age 18 and older exhibited some gingival bleeding (bleeding of the gums). Nearly 80% of all employed Americans have some form of attachment loss (gums that are pulling away from the teeth).

healthy gums
early perio
moderate perio
advanced perio
Healthy Gums
P e r i o d o n t a l     D i s e a s e

No doubt, you've heard some of the terms: Plaque, Tartar, Calculus, Gingivitis, Periodontitis, Pyorrhea, Periodontal (Gum) Disease. But what does it all mean? Quite simply, Periodontal Disease starts when plaque and tartar (calculus) are allowed to accumulate at the base of your teeth. The bacteria in the plaque leads to an infection in the gums (gingiva) called Gingivitis. Gingivitis is an early state of periodontal disease where the gums may become red, swollen, and bleed easily. Left untreated, the infection spreads to the tissue and bone that holds your teeth in place, a condition called Periodontitis (Pyorrhea). Because of the bacterial infection associated with Periodontitis, tooth abscesses are also common.

gum disease x-ray
healthy x-ray
This patient has Periodontitis. Notice the bone deterioration and uneven level of bone.
Healthy gums and bone.

What are the Signs of Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal Disease is rarely painful, especially in the early stages. Some of the common signs of Periodontal Disease are:

  • Gums that bleed when you brush or floss (healthy gums will not bleed)
  • Gums that are red, swollen, or tender
  • Gums that have pulled away from the teeth (receded)
  • Pus (infection) between the teeth and gums
  • Loose permanent teeth or separating (drifting) teeth
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • Change in the fit of a partial denture

What are the Dangers of Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal Disease is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults. More importantly, the infection releases toxins into the bloodstream leading to serious health risks:

diagram of Gum Disease dangers

Sources: National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Research
and American Heart Association

  • There is a growing body of scientific evidence suggesting possible links between periodontal disease and other systemic diseases such as diabetes and coronary artery disease.
  • New scientific research indicates that bacteria may affect the heart. People with periodontal disease, a bacterial infection, may be more at risk for heart disease.
  • While further research is needed, preliminary findings suggest that people with periodontal disease may be significantly more at risk for fatal heart attacks.
  • More than 20% of Americans have heart disease. Please advise us of any medical conditions, including heart disease. Your periodontal health may affect your overall health.
  • New research indicates that infections in the mouth, such as periodontal disease, may also be associated with increased risk of respiratory infection such as pneumonia and bronchitis. While further research is needed, you are well advised to maintain good periodontal health which is part of your overall health.
  • Scientists have known for some time that people with diabetes are more likely to have periodontal disease. New research indicates a two-way connection: periodontal disease may make it more difficult for diabetics to control their blood sugar.
  • Additional studies are underway, but findings suggest that controlling periodontal disease may help people control diabetes.
  • New evidence also suggests that pregnant women who have periodontal disease may be up to seven times more likely to have a baby that is born premature and at a low birthweight.
  • Periodontal disease is an infection, and all infections are cause for concern among pregnant women because they pose a risk to the health of the baby.
  • We advise all pregnant women -- and all women of childbearing age -- to come in for a periodontal screening examination. Although the possible links between periodontal disease and premature, low birth weight babies is still not fully understood, we want to do our part to keep mother and baby as healthy as possible.
  • The bacteria that cause periodontal disease are not confined to the mouth. They are carried throughout the blood stream and have the potential to cause health problems that appear in other parts of the body. Please feel free to ask us if you have any questions about the potential links between periodontal disease and other systemic diseases.

Is There a Cure?

The good news is that periodontal disease is treatable and preventable. We provide you with professional care in our office and instructions on proper home care. Working closely with your general dentist, we want to help you achieve an optimal level of oral health.