Periodontitis, a type of gum disease, is severe inflammation of your gums, with symptoms that include red, bleeding or swollen gums. If left untreated, periodontitis can lead to tooth loss. Treatment may involve deep dental cleaning or, in severe cases, surgery. Regular brushing and flossing can prevent periodontitis.
Periodontitis is a serious form of gum disease. It’s a bacterial infection that starts by inflaming the soft tissues around your teeth. Left untreated, it erodes the bone that supports your teeth, leading to mobility and tooth loss.
Periodontitis affects more than 47% of adults over age 30 in the U.S. That number jumps to around 70% for adults 65 years and over.
Periodontitis is fairly uncommon in people under age 30. It’s more likely to happen as you age. Still, it can affect anyone with poor oral hygiene — those who don’t brush their teeth and floss regularly. Some people are also more genetically prone to periodontitis than others. If your biological parents or grandparents have a history of gum disease, you’re more likely to develop it as well.
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Healthy gums are firm to the touch and fit snugly around your teeth. In comparison, periodontitis symptoms include:
The main cause of periodontitis is poor oral hygiene. Bacteria cling to plaque and tartar on your teeth surfaces. If you don’t clean your teeth as well or as often as you should, bacteria travel down beneath your gum line, where your toothbrush and floss can’t reach. These harmful bacteria erode the tissues that support your teeth, leading to infection, bone loss and tooth loss.
Other factors can increase your risk of developing periodontitis, including:
Periodontal disease progresses and becomes more problematic over time. There are four gum disease stages, including:
In addition to poor oral health, periodontitis can result in poor overall health. Research highlights an important link between oral health and whole-body health. People with periodontitis have a higher risk of developing heart disease, stroke, dementia and other serious health issues.
A dentist can diagnose periodontitis during a dental examination. They’ll:
Gum disease treatment depends on the extent and severity of your condition. There are nonsurgical and surgical options for treating periodontitis.
Nonsurgical options often work well for people with mild to moderate periodontitis. These treatments include:
If you have moderate to severe periodontitis, you’ll probably need surgical intervention. Surgical treatments include:
The best way to prevent periodontitis is to have regular dental cleanings and practice good oral hygiene at home between visits. People who are prone to periodontitis may require more frequent cleanings than people without gum disease. Ask your dentist how often you should have your teeth cleaned to maintain optimal oral health.
Periodontitis isn’t curable, but it’s manageable with proper care and treatment. Talk to your dentist or periodontist about a personalized treatment and maintenance plan.
If you develop symptoms of gum disease, such as red, sore or bleeding gums, schedule an appointment with a dentist right away. Early intervention is key to getting your oral health back on track. The longer you wait, the more advanced the disease will become. As a result, you may require more extensive treatment.
If you have periodontitis, here are a few questions you may want to ask your dentist or periodontist:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Periodontitis is a severe form of gum disease. Hallmark symptoms include red, bleeding and tender gums, loose teeth, bad breath and gum recession. You can’t cure periodontitis, but you can manage the condition with proper care and maintenance. This includes good oral hygiene and regular dental cleanings at intervals recommended by your dentist.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/04/2022.
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