There are two main categories of periodontal (gum) disease: gingivitis and periodontitis.
Gingivitis is the mild inflammation of the gingiva, or the gums, caused by plaque and calculus in the mouth. Plaque is a sticky, invisible film that forms on the teeth and consists of bacteria. Calculus is the yellow/brown hard debris formed when plaque has been left on the tooth surface and hardens. Since calculus firmly attaches to teeth, unlike plaque it cannot be removed by brushing or flossing and must be removed with special dental instruments. Fortunately, gingivitis is reversible with early treatment. Seeing your dentist and hygienist regularly for exams and cleanings is vital as gingivitis can be identified and treated before it progresses.
Periodontitis, also known as periodontal disease, occurs when gingivitis is left untreated. Periodontitis affects the tissue around the teeth, as the term periodontal means “around the tooth”. When plaque and calculus build-up near the gumline, the body reacts with an inflammatory response. This inflammatory response is what damages the tissue. As gum disease progresses, the connective tissue and bone becomes irreversibly lost, which forms pockets under the gumline. If untreated, these pockets collect even more plaque and calculus, causing even more inflammation, damage, and bone loss down the length of the roots of the teeth. Since the teeth are anchored in the bone, when the bone becomes destroyed the teeth become mobile and eventually fall out. Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults in the developed world. Some types of periodontitis include chronic periodontitis, aggressive periodontitis, necrotizing periodontitis, and periodontitis caused by systemic disease. Early detection and treatment of periodiotitis is critical since the further the disease progresses, the harder it is to reach into the pockets and remove the disease causing agents, forming a vicious cycle.
*Please note the people depicted in the photographs are models and not real patients.*