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Periodontitis - Gingivitis

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If you have been told you have periodontal (gum) disease, you're not alone. An estimated 80 percent of American adults currently have some form of the disease.

Periodontal diseases range from simple gum inflammation to serious disease that results in major damage to the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth. In the worst cases, teeth are lost.

The cause of periodontal disease

Our mouths are full of millions of bacteria which, along with saliva and enzymes gather with trapped food particles and create acid which dissolves the supporting structures of the teeth. The plaque becomes hardened and forms a hard concretion called calculus. This hard sticky material has to be removed with special instruments or ultra sonic scalers if it is really tenacious.


The longer plaque and tartar are on teeth, the more harmful they become. The bacteria cause inflammation of the gums, commonly diagnosed as gingivitis: the gums become red, swollen and can bleed easily. Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that can usually be reversed with proper treatment. Hard and soft tissue loss does not occur in this stage. It is easy to liken gingivitis with a sliver in a finger - if left for too long will bleed and become infected, but when removed will fully heal.


Ara Nazarian DDS, Troy MI
Untreated, gingivitis develops into periodontitis (which means "inflammation around the tooth"). Gums pull away from the teeth and form pockets that are infected. The body's immune system fights the bacteria as the plaque spreads and grows below the gum line.

When bacteria and food are allowed to remain undisturbed, acidic byproducts or endotoxins are produced that dissolve away the bone around the teeth. Periodontitis is like a sliver that has been left in and results in bleeding pus, loss of attachment and will lead to irreversible loss of bone.

Risk Factors

  • Smoking One of the most significant risk factors associated with the development of periodontitis. Also lowers the chances of successful treatments
  • Hormonal changes in girls/women Hormonal influences make gums more sensitive and make it easier for gingivitis to develop for some patients
  • Diabetes People with diabetes have high risk for developing infections, including periodontal disease
  • Stress Research indicates stress can make it more difficult for our bodies to fight periodontal infection
  • Medications Some drugs, such as antidepressants and some heart medicines, reduce the flow of saliva which is known to have a protective quality for teeth and gum tissue
  • Illnesses Diseases like cancer or AIDS and their treatments can also affect the health of gums
  • Genetics Some people are more prone to severe periodontal disease than others

Age and Sex Factors

In general terms, people don't show signs of periodontitis until they are in their 30's or 40's, although gingivitis can start during teenaged years. Men are more likely to have periodontal disease than women.

Prevention at Home

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
  • Floss every day preferably before bedtime so food can't remain in the mouth while you sleep - the time when salivary flow is greatly decreased
  • Visit your dentist routinely
  • Eat a well balanced diet
  • Don't use tobacco products

Self Diagnosis Tips

  • Persistent bad breath
  • Swollen or red gums
  • Bleeding, tender gum tissue
  • Painful chewing
  • Loose teeth
  • Sensitive teeth
Wisconsin Reconstructive Implant Dentistry
Wisconsin Prosthodontics
Richard Winter, DDS MAGD
Winter Dental Associates
Hampton Dental Associates
5323 W. Hampton Avenue
Milwaukee Wisconsin WI 53218
(414) 464-9021

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