A severe form of periodontal gum disease, periodontitis often leads to the destruction of the soft tissue and bone that hold your teeth in place. Tooth loss is only one of the problems associated with untreated periodontitis. Advanced periodontitis can contribute to a host of conditions, including coronary disease, stroke and respiratory problems. What’s especially troubling is that periodontitis is largely preventable.

Periodontitis is a progressive disease that occurs when an inflammation of the gums spreads below the gum line, the v-shaped groove between the tooth and gums. Over time, the infection begins destroying the underlying tissues, ligaments and bones that support your teeth. Since periodontitis is caused by same microorganisms that lead to the development of dental plaque and tartar (calculus), good oral hygiene is highly effective at controlling this very common condition.

Here is a list of periodontitis risk factors: Poor nutrition, gingivitis, diabetes, tobacco use, family history, substance abuse, age (being over 35), ill-fitting dental restorations, prescription medications which reduce saliva production, hormonal changes related to pregnancy and menopause, and weakened immunity due to conditions like leukemia and HIV/AIDS.

The Three Stages of Periodontitis:

Early Periodontitis – Bright red or bleeding gums and sensitivity to hot and cold foods are symptoms of early periodontitis. Other indicators of periodontitis include persistent bad breath, loose teeth or gums and changes in your bite or in the fit of dentures or dental bridges. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to see your dentist before early periodontitis becomes more serious and less treatable.

Moderate Periodontitis – Moderate periodontitis is the stage when irreversible damage begins to the periodontal ligaments holding teeth in their sockets. Gingival recession becomes visible, as does the formation of pockets and spaces between teeth and gums. These pockets trap food; which encourages the growth of tissue and bone destroying microorganisms.

Advanced Periodontitis – The stakes become significantly higher once the disease progresses to the point that it can be classified as advanced periodontitis. Symptoms include severely receding gums, puss-filled pockets between the teeth and significantly increased sensitivity to heat and cold. Intense gum tenderness may further aggravate the condition by discouraging all tooth brushing and flossing. Bone loss, loose teeth and eventual tooth loss generally accompany untreated advanced periodontitis.

Early-stage and moderate periodontitis are relatively easy to treat with improved personal oral hygiene and a good dental cleaning by your dental hygienist.