What is periodontitis?


Know the basics

What is periodontitis?

Periodontitis is a serious gum infection that damages the soft tissue and destroys the bone that supports your teeth. Periodontitis can cause tooth loss or worse, an increased risk of heart attack or stroke and other serious health problems.

Periodontitis is common but largely preventable. Periodontitis is usually the result of poor oral hygiene.

How common is periodontitis?

This health condition is common. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of periodontitis?

Signs and symptoms of periodontitis can include:

  • Swollen gums;
  • Bright red or purplish gums;
  • Gums that feel tender when touched;
  • Gums that pull away from your teeth (recede), making your teeth look longer than normal;
  • New spaces developing between your teeth;
  • Pus between your teeth and gums;
  • Bad breath;
  • Bad taste in your mouth;
  • Loose teeth;
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite.

There are different types, or classes, of periodontitis. Chronic periodontitis is the most common class, affecting mostly adults, though children can be affected, too. Aggressive periodontitis usually begins in childhood or early adulthood and affects only a small number of people.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Know the causes

What causes periodontitis?

Periodontitis begins with plaque. Plaque is a bacterial build up when you don’t brush your teeth. Plaque gets worse when you eat sugar and starches foods. Brushing and flossing your teeth removes plaque. But plaque re-forms quickly, usually within 24 hours. Another reason is tartar – a plaque that hardens on your teeth. Tartar is harder to remove and might irritate your gums.

The longer that plaque and tartar remain on your teeth, the more damage they can do. Ongoing inflammation eventually causes pockets to develop between your gums and teeth that fill with plaque, tartar and bacteria.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for periodontitis?

There are many risk factors for periodontitis, such as:

  • Gingivitis;
  • Heredity;
  • Poor oral health habits;
  • Tobacco use;
  • Diabetes;
  • Older age;
  • Decreased immunity, such as that occurring with leukemia, HIV/AIDS or chemotherapy;
  • Poor nutrition;
  • Certain medications;
  • Hormonal changes, such as those related to pregnancy or menopause;
  • Substance abuse;
  • Poor-fitting dental restorations;
  • Problems with the way your teeth fit together when biting.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is periodontitis diagnosed?

Your doctor will check physical symptoms on your teeth to diagnose. In some cases, your doctor might want to take some tests to see how severe your condition is:

  • Use a dental instrument to measure the pocket depth of the groove between your gums and your teeth. Your dentist or a hygienist inserts a metal probe beside your tooth beneath your gum line, usually at several sites throughout your mouth. In a healthy mouth, the pocket depth is usually between 1 and 3 millimeters (mm). Pockets deeper than 5 mm may indicate periodontitis.
  • Take dental X-rays to check for bone loss in areas where your dentist observes deeper pocket depths.

How is periodontitis treated?

Treatment is aimed at cleaning the pockets in the teeth and prevent damage to the bone. This involves removing the plaque and tartar, as well as getting a root planning to stop bacteria from spreading to the bones. You might need antibiotic to control the infection. If you have severe periodontitis , surgery might be recommended.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage periodontitis?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with periodontitis:

  • Get regular professional dental cleanings, on a schedule recommended by your dentist.
  • Use a soft toothbrush and replace it at least every three to four months.
  • Consider using an electric toothbrush, which may be more effective at removing plaque and tartar.
  • Brush your teeth twice a day or, better yet, after every meal or snack.
  • Floss daily.
  • Use a mouth rinse to help reduce plaque between your teeth.
  • Supplement brushing and flossing with an interdental cleaner, such as a dental pick, interdental brush or dental stick specially designed to clean between your teeth.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: December 3, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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