Periodontal Disease 101: Causes, Symptoms, Prevention, and Treatment

Periodontal disease is a painful oral infection that can damage soft tissue in the mouth and even weaken bone structures that hold teeth in place. Severe consequences of periodontal disease include loose teeth or even loss of teeth in advanced stages of the disease.

Over half of Americans over age 30 have some degree of periodontal inflammation and disease. This is a staggering statistic when you consider that we have premium dental care at our disposal in the United States. Why do we see such degeneration of oral health, and what can we do to treat and prevent this issue before it affects our whole health and well-being?

Causes of periodontal disease

In most cases, periodontal disease begins with plaque buildup on teeth--plaque is a sticky substance that remains on teeth after eating and drinking. If proper oral hygiene techniques are followed, this buildup of plaque can lead to tooth decay, inflammation of gum tissue, and deepening infection that begins to affect the entire structure of the mouth.

  • Plaque forms on teeth when sugar and starch from foods interact with bacteria that are typically present in your mouth. Brushing and flossing regularly work to counteract the formation of plaque on teeth.

  • Plaque that remains on teeth hardens into tartar, which can extend below the gum line and cause infections of soft tissues. You cannot get rid of tartar with brushing and flossing; professional dental cleaning is required to rid teeth of tartar completely.

  • Inflammation of soft tissues leads to gingivitis, the mildest form of periodontal disease. When caught in these formative stages, it is possible to treat and even reverse the consequences of gingivitis.

  • Later stages of periodontal disease occur when pockets of plaque, tartar, and bacteria build up in and around teeth, both on tooth surfaces and in gum tissue. Over time, this leads to a loss of healthy soft tissue and even proper bone density needed to hold teeth in place. This constant, ongoing infection can put a strain on your entire immune system.

Risk factors for disease development

Some people are more predisposed to the development of periodontal disease. They include:

  1. Smokers and those who use tobacco

  2. Those with poor oral hygiene habits

  3. Those who eat nutrient-deficient diets and excessive amounts of junk food

  4. Those older than 30

  5. People who are undergoing hormone therapies or hormonal changes

  6. Those who are taking medications that increase the risk of infection

  7. Those who suffer from suppressed immune function or have diseases such as Diabetes, Chron’s disease, and Rheumatoid Arthritis

If you know that you may be at risk for the development of periodontal disease, you must maintain proper oral hygiene techniques and see your dentist regularly to offset its development.


A healthy mouth contains vibrant pink gum tissue that fits snugly around teeth. Look for these signs to determine if you are developing periodontal disease:

  • Swollen, puffy, or tender gums

  • Gums that bleed easily

  • Spaces that appear in between and around teeth

  • Loose teeth, teeth that are falling out

  • Painful chewing and pain when caring for teeth

  • Pain in and along the jawline

  • Persistent bad breath, swollen tongue

  • Lesions and sores along the gumline and in soft tissues of the mouth

Any of these signs necessitates a trip to your dentist immediately. If you have experienced any of these symptoms, call your dentist to set up an appointment and receive a thorough examination and plot a course of action for treatment.

Prevention and treatment

The primary goal for the treatment of periodontal disease is to control and possibly reverse any infection that has settled in. A process of deep cleaning, or scaling, in combination with various antibiotic medications, is used to minimize damage and to restore health to all tissues in the mouth. In severe cases, surgical procedures are used to restore missing or weakened tissues and bring strength back to teeth and bones.

Of course, the best treatment for any oral disease is prevention. Following your dentist’s recommendations for oral care and committing to visit at least twice a year for inspection and deep cleaning are the best ways to not only treat but prevent periodontal disease from forming.

Need an expert opinion? Give us a call!

Dr. Gordon Krueger, DDS, MA, PA, has over twenty-five years of experience and expertise in diagnosing, treating, and preventing cases of periodontal disease. He and his committed team of professionals are committed to helping you restore your oral health, one tooth at a time. The use of cutting-edge oral care and a passion for patient care make each visit efficient and comfortable for you, our valued patient. If you need professional oral care, trust us to get the job done right. Visit for more information and to set up an appointment today. A vibrant, beautiful, and healthy smile will soon be yours!

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