Periodontitis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

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What Is Periodontitis?

Periodontitis is a severe infection of the gums that can cause some damage to the soft tissues and bone supporting the teeth. Periodontitis may also cause the deterioration of the alveolar bone around the teeth and cause the teeth to loosen, then fall off afterward. Periodontitis is usually the second stage of gum disease, out of three stages; let`s take a look.

Stages of Periodontitis


Gingivitis is the most common stage of periodontitis. It is identified by the build-up of plaque around the gums, and causes inflammation, swelling, and even bleeding in some cases.


Untreated gingivitis turns out to be periodontitis. It affects the gums, jawbone, and the surrounding bone. This article is mainly on this second stage

Advanced Periodontitis

When periodontitis advances to this third stage, sufferers are at high risk of losing some of their teeth, together with the bones and fibers that support them. At this stage, they are at risk of toothaches, tooth loss, bad breath, bone loss, and some other symptoms.
Because our focus is on the second stage which is periodontitis, we`ll discuss its symptoms.

Symptoms of Periodontitis

  • puffy, inflamed, or swollen gums
  • bright red or purplish gums
  • bleeding gums
  • receding gums
  • tooth loss
  • bad breath
  • toothache
  • increasing space between teeth
  • pus between the teeth and gums

Causes of Periodontitis

Plaques on the Teeth and Gums

A number of people who have periodontitis first experience the formation of plaques on their teeth and gums. The starches and sugars in the foods we eat interact with the naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth, hence the formation of plaque. When plaque is left unattended, it causes the gum line to harden into tartar. When this happens, it becomes more difficult to eliminate. Without a dentist`s intervention, tartar may lead to gingivitis, and this is the beginning of periodontitis.

Other possible causes of periodontitis are:

  • hormonal changes or imbalances
  • substance abuse
  • chewing or smoking tobacco
  • nutritional deficiencies
  • certain medications
  • radiation therapy or chemotherapy
  • medical conditions such as HIV/AIDS, leukemia, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes
  • Crohn’s disease
  • genetics
  • obesity

How to Diagnose Periodontitis

Your dentist may:

  • First, begin by reviewing your lifestyle and medical history to ascertain factors that may be contributing to the development of periodontitis.
  • Examine your mouth to look for symptoms of the condition.
  • Measure the depth of the holes formed as a result of the condition.
  • Take dental x-rays to check for bone loss.

How to Treat Periodontitis

The picture of a dentistThe focuses when treating periodontitis are cleaning the holes around the teeth and preventing damage to the surrounding bones and tissues ― specialists such as periodontists and dental hygienists can do these. Note that maintaining healthy oral care and avoiding tobacco during the period of treating periodontitis is vital. And of course, even after treatment. If periodontitis is not in one of its advanced forms, a non-surgical treatment would be fine. Below are some of the non-surgical treatments.

Root Planning

Root planning helps to smoothen the root surfaces to prevent any further build-up of bacteria and tartar.


This entails some scaling to remove tartar and bacteria from the surface of your teeth and under your gums. A laser or an ultrasonic device is suitable for this purpose.


Topical and oral antibiotics can be used in controlling bacterial infections, hence is also a treatment for periodontitis.

However, when periodontitis is in an advanced form, these surgical treatments may be required:

Soft Tissue Grafts

Soft tissue grafts reinforce damaged soft tissue. The procedure entails taking a small amount of tissue from the palate or another donor.

Bone Grafting

Bone grafting reinforces the destroyed bones surrounding the root of the teeth. The graft may be synthetic or made up of fragments of the patient`s bone or that of a donor.

Flap or Pocket-Reduction Surgery

These are tiny incisions made in the gum so that a section of it can be easily lifted for root planning or more effective scaling.

Tissue-Stimulating Proteins

This is the application of a special gel to the affected tooth root to enhance the growth of healthy bones and tissues.

Guided Tissue Regeneration

In this treatment, a biocompatible fabric is placed between the tooth and an existing bone to aid bacteria-damaged bones to grow again. It also prevents unwanted tissues from entering the healing area.

How to Prevent Periodontitis

A picture of toothbrush and toothpaste

  • Brush your teeth at least twice daily.
  • Floss daily.
  • Use a soft toothbrush and change it every three months, or immediately after you treat an illness.
  • Use an electric toothbrush if possible, because it removes plaque and tartar better.
  • Use a mouth rinse to get rid of plaque between your teeth and gums.
  • Neither smoke nor chew tobacco.
  • Do regular dental checkups.

Complications of Periodontitis

  • tooth loosening/loss
  • recurrent gum abscesses
  • receding gums
  • damaged periodontal ligament
  • damaged jaw bone

Some Dental Health Myths

Myth 1: It’s normal for gums to bleed a little.

Fact: It isn’t. Bleeding gums is a clear sign of the development of or presence of gum disease. See a dentist if your gums bleed. You shouldn’t ignore it.

Myth 2: Unhealthy teeth don’t affect general health.

Fact: Certain bacteria in the mouth, as a result of periodontal diseases, may enter the bloodstream and cause more severe health problems such as a stroke, heart disease, and even the risk of premature delivery in pregnant women.

Myth 3: Only poor oral hygiene causes bad breath.

Fact: Sadly, one can maintain the best oral hygiene and still have bad breath. This is because some other health conditions may cause bad breath.

Myth 4: Tooth decay is what causes tooth loss.

Fact: It is tooth decay, combined with periodontal diseases that cause a number of tooth loss cases.

Other Dental Health Facts

  • People who smoke are five times more likely to develop periodontal disease than non-smokers.
  • In the Middle Ages, it was customary to kiss a donkey if one had a toothache.
  • Coconuts are anti-bacterial, hence they reduce the risk of developing gum disease and cavities.
  • 90% of American adults with diabetes also have periodontal disease.
  • People with periodontal disease are two times more likely to develop heart disease.
  • Replacing a toothbrush after an illness prevents the risk of re-infection.
  • Tooth enamel is the hardest structure in the human body.
  • Tooth decay is the second most common disease after the common cold.
  • About 65 million American adults have some form of periodontal disease.
  • In 200 A.D., the Romans used a mixture of bones, oyster shells, eggshells, and honey to clean their teeth.
  • People have, for ages, filled cavities in the teeth with various materials such as gum, stone chips, gum, and turpentine resin.
  • Annually, children in North America spend about half a billion dollars on chewing gum.
  • An apple a day, contrary to popular opinion, causes three times more possibility of developing dental decay.
  • Children miss 51 million school hours annually to dental-related illnesses.

Now That You Know…

Preventing periodontitis is quite possible if one observes healthy oral care tips. The saying that prevention is better than cure cannot be overemphasized, especially when it comes to dental health issues ― not only because it`s quite expensive treating it, but because the treatment comes with some pain, and also because it is almost impossible to take one`s dental health back to its previous state.

So why endanger your dental health?