Periodontitis is an inflammatory disease of the tissues that surround and support the teeth. These surrounding tissues (i.e., the gums, root surfaces, ligaments and bone) are collectively referred to as the "periodontium."
Periodontitis often begins as gingivitis (an inflammatory condition of the gums). If the gingivitis worsens, periodontitis develops. As the periodontitis progresses, the gums pull away from the teeth, leaving deep pockets where bacteria grow and damage the bone that supports the teeth. The gums can also shrink making the teeth look longer. The teeth may become loose due to the bone loss and eventually be lost/extracted.
Some symptoms of periodontitis can be the same as those for gingivitis, particularly in its earliest stages, but periodontitis is a more progressive disease. The symptoms of periodontitis may include:
- Gums that bleed easily (especially when brushing, flossing or eating hard foods)
- Gums that are receding (which makes the teeth look longer)
- Breath odor
- Deep pockets between the teeth and gums
- Loose teeth
- Gums that are swollen
- Gums that are bright red or red-purple
- Gums that are shiny
- Gums that are tender when touched but painless otherwise
Pain in the gums and bone is usually absent with periodontitis, unless an acute infection forms in one or more periodontal pockets. Consequently, individuals may not seek treatment until the disease has advanced significantly. Do not "wait until it hurts."
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