Periodontal disease is a highly common infection of the periodontal tissues (gums and bone) that are responsible for supporting the teeth. These infections are caused by bacteria that grow on the teeth near the gum line due to poor brushing and flossing practices. Periodontal disease is known as gingivitis during its earliest stages, which is typically characterized by a sore, swollen gums that may bleed easily. Allowed to progress, an advanced periodontal disease may set in causing pain, receding gums and pockets between the gums and teeth. Known as periodontitis, this type of periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss among American adults – even more so than decay.
The periodontal infection must be removed and the area given a chance to heal. If the infection has spread into the bone that supports the teeth, then a surgical procedure must be performed to retract the gums and remove the lower level infection.
Periodontal disease has been associated with a number of risk factors aside from poor brushing and flossing habits. In fact, the risk of developing gingivitis or periodontitis increases if you have a systemic disease like heart disease, as well as conditions like diabetes and AIDS. Other factors that may contribute to the development of periodontal disease include stress, genetics, crowded teeth, faulty dental restorations, and the use of certain medications that may cause dry mouth. According to the Centers for Disease Control, women are also at an increased risk for periodontal disease when they are undergoing hormonal changes, such as with menopause or pregnancy.