Dr. Ronald Gerhard

What is Periodontal Disease?



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The word "periodontal" literally means "around the tooth." Periodontal disease (also known as "gum disease", "pyorrhea" or "periodontal infection") is an ongoing bacterial infection in the gums and bone around your teeth. This infection leads to an inflammation under the gums. If not treated, this inflammation can destroy the bone around your teeth. This results in tooth loss. 75% of all adult tooth loss is due to periodontal infection.

More importantly, research has associated periodontal infection to several serious medical problems; including heart disease, diabetes and stroke. As ongoing research continues to define how periodontal disease is associated with these and other health problems, good oral health is essential. Periodontal health is a key component to a healthy body.

  • How does an "ongoing infection" work?

With many infections, particularly with an abrasion, the area becomes infected and inflamed. It may last for days or weeks, but eventually the inflammation goes away. The inflammation disappears when your immune system conquers the bacteria and the infection heals.

With an ONGOING infection, your immune system never wins the battle and the infection keeps growing and the inflammation never goes away. Periodontal disease is an ongoing infection in the pockets around your teeth. Your immune system is losing the battle. Without treatment, the infection will progress with the ultimate result being the loss of your teeth.

  • Other Factors Contributing to Periodontal Disease

People with periodontal disease have low resistance to periodontal bacteria. This causes an ongoing gum infection that grows in "bursts" of activity. Each time it grows, more support for your teeth is lost. Some factors that can cause a "burst" of activity are:

  • Poor oral hygiene Dental plaque
  • Smoking
  • Genetic factors
  • Diet
  • Illness
  • Stress or tension
  • Bruxing or clenching your  teeth

Getting Periodontal Infection Treated Right Away

  • Symptoms of Periodontal Infection

Periodontal infection is usually painless until it reaches an advanced stage. However, there are some symptoms which can indicate the presence of periodontal infection.

These include:

  • Red or swollen gums

  • Bleeding when brushing (pink toothbrush) or at other times

  • Aching, itchy, sore or tender gums

  • Receding gums (teeth beginning to look longer)

  • Bad breath

  • Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite

  • Loose, separating or protruding teeth

  • Spaces between teeth

 Important Note: Your gums can look and feel quite normal and yet deep pockets of periodontal infection can still be present. To be certain about any periodontal disease, ask your dentist or periodontist to examine your gums for signs of infection.



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Revised: 10/19/2019