Dr Barry Craig Ries, D.D.S., P.L.
Dental Prosthodontics-Cosmetic & Esthetic Dental Restorations

Periodontal Disease

What is Periodontal Disease?

What is Periodontal Diesease?
Periodontal diseases are infections of the gums and bone that surround and support the teeth. In its early stage, called gingivitis, the gums can become swollen and red, and they may bleed. In its more serious form, called periodontitis, the gums can pull away from the tooth, bone can be lost, and the teeth may loosen or even fall out. Periodontal disease is mostly seen in adults. Periodontal disease and tooth decay are the two biggest threats to dental health.(CDC, 2011)


Bacteria in the mouth infect tissue surrounding the tooth, causing inflammation around the tooth leading to periodontal disease. When bacteria stay on the teeth long enough, they form a film called plaque, which eventually hardens to tartar, also called calculus. Tartar build-up can spread below the gum line, which makes the teeth harder to clean. Then, only a dental health professional can remove the tartar and stop the periodontal disease process. (CDC, 2011)

Warning signs

The following are warning signs of periodontal disease:

  • Bad breath or bad taste that won't go away
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Tender or bleeding gums
  • Painful chewing
  • Loose teeth
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Gums that have pulled away from your teeth
  • Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • Any change in the fit of partial dentures

Risk factors

Certain factors increase the risk for periodontal disease:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Stress
  • Heredity
  • Crooked teeth
  • Underlying immuno-deficiencies—e.g., AIDS, HIV, LUPUS
  • Fillings that have become defective
  • Taking medications that cause dry mouth
  • Bridges that no longer fit properly
  • Female hormonal changes, such as with pregnancy or the use of oral contraceptives

Prevention and treatment

Gingivitis can be controlled and treated with good oral hygiene and regular professional cleaning. More severe forms of periodontal disease can also be treated successfully but may require more extensive treatment. Such treatment might include deep cleaning of the tooth root surfaces below the gums, medications prescribed to take by mouth or placed directly under the gums, and sometimes corrective surgery. (CDC, 2011)

The Oral-Systemic Link

Although periodontal diseases are well known as an oral problem, in the past decade, there has been a shift in perspective. Research has been focusing on the potential impact of periodontal diseases on systemic health. The relationship between periodontal inflammatory disease and systemic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory disease and adverse pregnancy outcomes has been closely investigated. The basis for the bio- logical mechanism of this relationship is beginning to emerge and further study may lead to an understanding of whether or not a true causal relationship exists. (Gurenlian, 2006)

Patients, dental hygienists, dentists, dental specialists and other health care providers should be aware of the consistent relationships between oral inflammation and systemic diseases. They should value the need to modify assessment, prevention, and treatment protocols to improve the oral health as well as total health of the patients they treat in the office each day. (Gurenlian, 2006)


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Division of Oral Health: Periodontal disease. Atlanta, GA: Author. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/topics/periodontal_disease.htm

Gurenlian, J. R. (2006). Inflammation: The Relationship Between Oral Health and Systemic Disease [Special Issue]. Access, (pp.1-3). Retrieved from http://www.adha.org/resources-docs/7823_Inflammation.pdf

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