Periodontitis is a serious gum infection that damages the soft tissue and destroys the bone that supports your teeth. Periodontitis can cause teeth to loosen or lead to tooth loss. Periodontitis is common, but largely preventable. It’s usually the result of poor oral hygiene. Brushing at least twice a day, flossing daily, and getting regular dental checkups can greatly reduce your chances of developing it and improve your chances of successful treatment of Periodontitis.

Symptoms of Periodontitis include:

  • Swollen or puffy gums

  • Bright red, dusky red, or purplish gums

  • Gums that feel tender when touched

  • Gums that bleed easily

  • Gums that pull away from your teeth (recede), making your teeth look longer than normal

  • New spaces developing between your teeth

  • Pus between your teeth and gums

  • Bad breath

  • Loose teeth

  • Painful chewing

  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite

There are several different types of periodontitis. The most common types include chronic periodontitis, aggressive periodontitis, and necrotizing periodontal disease. Chronic periodontitis is the most common type, affecting mostly adults, although children can be affected too. This type is caused by plaque buildup and involves slow deterioration that worsens over time, causing destruction in the gums and bone and loss of teeth if untreated. Aggressive periodontitis usually begins in childhood, or early adulthood, and affects a small number of people. It causes rapid progression of bone and tooth loss if untreated. Necrotizing periodontal disease is characterized by the death of gum tissue, tooth ligaments, and supporting bone caused by lack of blood supply (necrosis), resulting in severe infection. This type generally occurs in people with a suppressed immune system such as HIV infection or cancer treatment, or in cases of malnutrition.

Treatment may be performed by a periodontist, general dentist, or dental hygienist. The goal of periodontitis treatment is to thoroughly clean the pockets around teeth and prevent damage to surrounding bone. Periodontitis treatment includes scaling, root planing, and antibiotics. Scaling removes tartar and bacteria from your tooth surfaces and beneath your gums. Root planing removes the bacterial products produced by inflammation, smooths the root surfaces, discouraging further buildup of tartar and bacteria, and allows proper healing. The procedure may be performed using instruments, a laser, or an ultrasonic device. Topical or oral antibiotics can help control bacterial infection. Topical antibiotics can include antibiotic mouth rinses or insertion of gels containing antibiotics in the space between your teeth and gums or into pockets after a deep cleaning. However, oral antibiotics may be necessary to completely eliminate infection-causing bacteria. Advanced periodontitis treatment may require dental surgery such as flap surgery (pocket reduction surgery), soft tissue grafts, bone grafting, guided tissue regeneration, or applying tissue-stimulating proteins. Advanced cases will need to be referred to an oral surgeon.