November 12, 2012


Periodontitis is the infection and inflammation of the periodontium, the soft tissue which surrounds the tooth and supports it. The disease also leads to the slow and progressive loss of the alveolar bone around the teeth.


Dental plaque develops around your teeth in form of a pale-yellow biofilm. It primarily consists of bacteria and food debris that try to attach to the surface of the teeth. Brushing can remove plaque temporarily but new plaque will develop within 26 hours. If you do no not remove the biofilm, it will harden into tarter, which is more difficult to remove. The bacterial toxins and the inflammatory response of the immune system associated with untreated plaque can gradually degenerate your teeth and its surrounding tissue.

Regular smoking, diabetes, AIDS and certain cancers may increase your risk of periodontitis. Your genetics and some medications may also promote the disease. Hormonal changes associated with puberty and pregnancy may also increase your susceptibility to dental plaque.


The common symptoms of periodontitis can include:

  • Swollen and painful gums with bright-red to purple spots
  • Teeth look longer with extra spaces between the them
  • Blood or pus discharge from the gums
  • Bleeding when flossing
  • Metallic taste in the mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Loose teeth

Untreated cases can worsen and destroy the bone and connective tissue that hold the tooth. The infection may get systemic and spread to other parts of the body via blood.


You dentist can diagnose periodontitis after a thorough examination of your oral cavity with a periodontal probe, a thin, silver stick that is bent at one end. When inserted next to the tooth, under the gum line, the probe will not slide far below the gum line in case of healthy teeth.


The main aim of periodontitis treatment is to clean the teeth and the gums to get rid of the plaque. It is important to maintain good oral hygiene after the professional cleansing is done. Your dentist will recommend brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing once per day. Arthritis patients may use an electric brush for thorough cleansing. You may also increase the frequency of your dental visits and professional cleansings.

Your doctor may also prescribe a special antimicrobial mouth rinse such as chlorhexidine to control the growth of the bacteria. A small antiseptic “chip” filled with chlorhexidine is inserted in the pockets after root planning to prevent bacterial growth. An antibiotic gel containing doxycycline may also be used to control bacterial growth. Minocycline-rich antibiotic microspheres can control bacteria and reduce periodontal pocket size as well.

Severe cases of periodontitis may require surgical interventions such as flap surgery, which aims to remove calculus in deep pockets round the teeth. Bone and tissue grafts may help regenerate bone or gum tissue that were destroyed as a result of the infection.


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