Periodontal disease is an infectious disease of the gums caused mainly by our body's reaction to the bacteria found in dental plaque. Plaque is the sticky film that forms at the gumline and between the teeth and is composed mostly of growing colonies of bacteria.
Gum disease is often called a "silent infection" in that quite often there is no pain involved. Everyday we hear patients say "nothing bothers me" or "my teeth don't hurt." That may indeed be true but that doesn't mean that there isn't a problem.
Gingivitis is a redness and swelling of the gum tissues caused by the presence of plaque on your teeth. The more plaque you have and the longer it is there, the more likely to get red, swollen, bleeding gums. This is usually fairly easily treated by getting your teeth cleaned or thoroughly removing the plaque from your teeth. Everyone responds differently to plaque. Numerous outside factors such as smoking, stress, pregnancy or differing hormone levels can affect how much or how little your gums react.
Periodontitis is similar to gingivitis in that it is the result of your body's response to the presence of plaque. In periodontal disease, however, not only are the gums involved but the bone in which the tooth lives as well as the ligament that holds the tooth to the bone are involved and can dissolve away. Without enough of this supporting bone to hold the teeth in, they can loosen and eventually fall out. Since your body's immune system reacts to the presence of dental plaque, the best and most important factor in preventing or reducing gum disease is thoroughly and meticulously removing all the plaque from every part of all your teeth. Smoking and stress are also very important factors.
We now have evidence to show that there is a connection between gum disease and numerous medical conditions such as:
You'll hear much about pockets. A periodontal pocket occurs when the gum next to a tooth swells or the bone that holds the tooth in place dissolves away. This leaves a space between the tooth and gum that is an ideal breeding ground for infection. The deeper the pocket, the more plaque bacteria it can hold and the harder it is to clean. This leads to further disease, bone loss and abscesses. One of the goals of periodontal treatment, in addition to resolving the infection, is reducing the size of the periodontal pocket. This can happen naturally when the infection is brought under control but can sometimes require surgical correction.