Periodontal disease, a bacterial infection in the mouth, is the primary cause of tooth loss in adults. It destroys both gum tissue and the alveolar bone that supports the teeth. The term "periodontal disease" includes a number of different diseases with regard to the periodontium (the supporting structures of the teeth, including gums, periodontal ligament and bone).

In general, there are two distinct classifications:
  1. Gingivitis, or the inflammation/infection of the gums that has not resulted in the loss of bone.
  2. Periodontitis, which results in inflammation/infection of the gum, but also includes loss of bone.

Conventionally, we have graded periodontitis as being mild, moderate, or severe. Typical signs of periodontal disease include the following:

  1. Gums that bleed spontaneously or during brushing
  2. Red, swollen, or tender gums
  3. Gums that have receded from the teeth
  4. Persistent halitosis/bad breath
  5. Pus between the teeth and gums sometimes creating a bad taste or odor
  6. Loose teeth
  7. Teeth that have migrated or changed positions
  8. A change in your occlusion/bite

Interestingly sometimes none of these signs are present, and one will still have a significant problem of periodontal disease. Please click here to view the Consumer section of the American Academy of Periodontology website to see causes of gum disease.

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