Also known as gum disease, periodontal disease is caused when the bacteria in plaque builds up between the gums and teeth. As the bacteria grows, the gums surrounding the tooth can become inflamed and, if left untreated, this inflammation can cause the gums and supporting bone structure to deteriorate. This can lead to gum recession or even tooth loss. The largest cause of oral health issues in adults, plaque-induced inflammation can be divided into two categories: gingivitis and periodontitis.
The mildest form of periodontal disease, it causes the gums to become red and swollen, often bleeding easily. Gingivitis is reversible with good home care and professional treatment, however, if left untreated it can progress to periodontitis. Contributing factors to gingivitis include diabetes, smoking, aging, stress, inadequate nutrition, hormonal fluctuations, pregnancy, substance abuse, and certain medication use.
Over time, plaque can spread and grow below the gum line, resulting in a chronic inflammatory response in which the body essentially turns on itself, and the tissues and bone supporting the teeth are broken down and destroyed. Pockets are formed where the gums separate from the teeth and these pockets become infected. These pockets deepen and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed as the disease progresses. The symptoms may be mild at first and eventually teeth may become lose or have to be removed.