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, and if not treated, the inflammation can destroy the bone and ligament structures that support the teeth. Approximately 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 (see the "The Medical Consequences of Periodontal Disease" section). As ongoing research continues to define how periodontal disease is associated with these and other health problems, oral health maintenance is essential. Periodontal health is a key component to a healthy body.
Have you ever gotten a sliver of wood caught under the skin of your hand? Because the wound is open to bacteria, the site may become infected and appear red or inflamed. In time, if the sliver is removed, your immune system fights off the bacteria and your hand heals.
During an ongoing infection, however, your immune system is unable to conquer the bacteria on its own and the pain and redness continue to worsen.
Periodontal disease is an ongoing infection in the pockets around your teeth. You cannot fight off the infection alone, but with periodontal therapy, we are able to remove debris and bacteria from the site allowing the gum to heal.
People with periodontal disease have may have a 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:
When your infection has a burst of activity, or when there are signs that this is about to occur, your general dentist may recommend you see a periodontist.
Periodontal infection is usually painless until it reaches an advanced stage. However, there are some symptoms which can indicate the presence of periodontal infection.
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.