What causes periodontitis?
Periodontitis usually begins with plaque, a substance that develops when bacteria and food debris join with saliva. Plaque is sticky and it lodges itself onto the tooth surfaces. Brushing and flossing help to remove plaque, but if it is not removed, it hardens and turns into tartar. Tartar is impossible to remove with a brush alone and must be treated with intensive cleaning provided by a dentist or a dental hygienist. The longer plaque or tartar remain on the teeth or gum line, the more damage they can do.
Most cases of periodontitis begin as gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease that causes swollen, bleeding gums. Gingivitis can be treated with good oral hygiene. However, it can develop fairly quickly into advanced gum disease which is much harder to treat.
Eventually, as the infection progresses, pockets develop between the teeth and gums, and the bone tissue lying beneath the teeth becomes damaged. This results in the teeth becoming less stable in their sockets and eventual tooth loss.
What are the signs of periodontitis?
Signs and symptoms of periodontitis include:
- inflamed gums
- redness in the gums
- pain and tenderness
- an unpleasant taste in the mouth
- bad breath
- pockets between the teeth and gums (these may contain pus)
- receding gums
How can periodontitis be treated?
The aim of treatment for periodontitis is to limit damage, control pain and prevent infection from spreading. There are various techniques used, and treatment is usually provided by dentists and dental hygienists. Treatment options include scale and polish, root planing and taking antibiotic medication. In severe cases, surgical treatment may be recommended to reduce bone loss and recession.