What is Periodontal Disease

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The term "periodontal" means "around the tooth." Periodontal diseases are bacterial gum infections that destroy the gums and supporting bone.

The main cause of periodontal disease is bacterial plaque, a sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth. If the plaque is not removed, it can turn into a hard substance called calculus. The bacteria in plaque infect the gums and release poisons that cause redness and inflammation. The inflammation and the poisons cause destruction of the tissues that support the teeth including the bone. When this happens the gums separate microscopically from the teeth, forming pockets that fill with even more plaque causing the infection to worsen.

Periodontal (gum) disease is usually detected by your dentist or dental hygienist when he/she is conducting a periodontal exam. During this exam is when he/she uses a periodontal probe to measure the pocket space between the gum line and the teeth. A normal depth is about 3 millimeters or less, with no bleeding. The probe is used to determine if the pocket is deeper than 3 millimeters.

Risk factors that can be attributed to affecting the health of the gums and bone, include:

Periodontal disease comes in many forms, including:

Gingivitis
Gingivitis is perhaps the mildest form of gum disease. It is considered the first stage. While the gums become red, swollen and bleed easily, there is very little to no discomfort associated at this stage of the disease.

Chronic Periodontitis
Periodontitis is a condition resulting in inflammation within the soft tissues surrounding the teeth causing progressive attachment and bone loss.

Aggressive Periodontitis
This form includes rapid attachment loss and bone destruction.

Copyright © 2005 The American Academy of Periodontology