Periodontitis

Alternative Names

Pyorrhea – gum disease; Inflammation of gums – involving bone

Definition of Periodontitis

Periodontitis is inflammation and infection of the ligaments and bones that support the teeth.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Periodontitis occurs when inflammation or infection of the gums () is untreated or treatment is delayed. Infection and inflammation spreads from the gums (gingiva) to the ligaments and bone that support the teeth. Loss of support causes the teeth to become loose and eventually fall out. Periodontitis is the primary cause of tooth loss in adults. This disorder is uncommon in childhood but increases during adolescence.

Signs and tests

Examination of the mouth and teeth by the dentist shows soft, swollen, red-purple gums. Deposits of plaque and calculus may be visible at the base of the teeth, with enlarged pockets in the gums. The gums are usually painless or mildly tender, unless a tooth abscess is also present. Teeth may be loose and gums may be receded.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to reduce inflammation, eliminate pockets if present, and address any underlying causes. Rough surfaces of teeth or dental appliances should be repaired. General illness or other conditions should be treated.

Expectations (prognosis)

Some people find the removal of dental plaque from inflamed gums to be uncomfortable. Bleeding and tenderness of the gums should go away within 1 or 2 weeks of treatment. (Healthy gums are pink and firm in appearance.)

Review

Jack D. Rosenberg, DDS, Advanced Dental Care, Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, M.D., MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 2/22/2010

Gingivitis
Swollen gums

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

Article written by

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability.