What is periodontitis?

Periodontitis is a severe and chronic form of gum disease. Periodontitis causes inflammation of the gums and destruction of the bones in the mouth that can eventually lead to the loss of teeth if not treated.

Periodontitis means “inflammation around the teeth.” It is a serious but common and preventable condition.

The American Dental Association estimates chronic periodontitis affects 47.2% of the U.S. population aged 30 years or older.

Who gets periodontitis?

Periodontitis is caused by poor oral hygiene, and can affect anyone. It is more common as people age, and years of poor brushing and flossing and untreated gingivitis take a toll.

Periodontitis is uncommon in individuals younger than 30. It affects men more often than women. Some risk factors can increase an individual’s chance of getting periodontitis. These include:

  • Diabetes.
  • Smoking.
  • Taking medications that affect the body’s ability to make saliva, which protects the gums.
  • Genetic susceptibility.
  • Having a condition such as cancer or AIDS that suppresses the immune system. This can lead to the most severe form of periodontitis, called necrotizing periodontitis.

What causes periodontitis?

Periodontitis results when gingivitis is not treated.

Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums caused by plaque and tartar on the teeth. Gingivitis is noticeable because the gums become swollen and bleed. However, gingivitis can be reversed with regular brushing, flossing, and dental care. If untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis.

In periodontitis, the gums become so inflamed that pockets of open space develop between the tissue and teeth. Infections can develop in these spaces as bacteria flourishes. The body’s immune system then begins to fight the bacteria as plaque grows below the gum line. This eventually leads to the breakdown of bone and tissue that hold teeth in place.

What are the symptoms of periodontitis?

Symptoms of periodontitis include:

  • Bleeding gums.
  • Swollen and tender gums.
  • Loose teeth.
  • Sensitive teeth.
  • Painful chewing.
  • Pus around the teeth.
  • Bad breath.
  • Receding gums.
  • A change in your bite when your lower and upper teeth are together.
  • Teeth that appear longer.

If you notice any of these symptoms, you should see your dental care provider.

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