Periodontal disease damages the surrounding soft tissues and bone that support the teeth. It is predominantly caused by the accumulation of bacteria, mucus and other particles in the form of plaque or tartar that sit between the teeth and the gums. Periodontal disease can range in severity from a simple gum inflammation, known as gingivitis, to a more serious inflammation of the periodontal tissues. Left untreated periodontal disease can result in significant tissue damage and eventual tooth loss.
The problem with periodontal disease is that often the progression is painless. As a result the affected individual may not be aware of an ongoing disease process. This is why it is so important to recognize the signs of the earliest stage of periodontal disease, which is gingivitis. The symptoms of gingivitis typically include red, swollen and bleeding gums. Treatment instituted at this point is often sufficient to reverse the course of the disease and to avoid any permanent damage to the periodontal tissues. A series of deep dental cleanings, an improved home care regimen, and a commitment to regular maintenance may be all that is required to prevent this stage of periodontal disease from progressing.
Left untreated, gingivitis can escalate into periodontitis. However, there are other factors that can contribute to the escalation of periodontal disease, including smoking, genetic tendencies, and unchecked diabetes. In either case, when periodontal disease has progressed to a more advanced stage there is usually clinical and radiographic evidence of damage to the bone and soft tissues supporting the teeth. Periodontal treatment in this phase is designed to halt the progression of the disease and to restore tooth support as possible. This may involve medications to control the bacteria and reduce the size of the pockets between the teeth and gums, gum surgery, as well as bone and tissue grafts.