Symptoms and Signs of Periodontal (Gum) Disease

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 9/27/2021

Doctor's Notes on Periodontal (Gum) Disease

Periodontal disease (periodontitis) is a chronic inflammatory disease that destroys gum and bone tissues that support the teeth. Gingivitis (gum swelling, bleeding, bad breath, bad taste in your mouth) usually occurs before signs and symptoms of periodontal disease begin. Periodontal signs and symptoms include

  • destruction of gums, connective tissue, and bone,
  • exposure of tooth roots, and
  • tooth sensitivity to temperature changes.

Pus can develop between the teeth; teeth may fall out or need to be extracted.

Causes of periodontal disease include plaque and tartar deposits that support bacterial infections and contain bacterial toxins that injure or destroy gum and bone tissues. Factors that aid the development of periodontal disease are genetics, infrequent dental care, low calcium intake, the body's inflammatory response to infection, diabetes, poor saliva production, stress, steroid medications and other medications (antiseizure and some blood pressure medications), and changing hormone levels.

What Are the Treatments for Periodontal (Gum) Disease?

There are two major treatment plans for periodontal disease. They depend on the severity of the disease:

  • Mild or early periodontal disease: The treatment is like gingivitis (see gingivitis link) but includes topical or oral antibiotics to rid the area of infection-causing bacteria.
  • Advanced periodontal disease needs surgical treatments:
    • Flap surgery: gum flap made to expose diseased area
    • Soft tissue grafts: grafts from palate used to reconstruct gum
    • Bone grafts: bone tissue used to replace lost bone tissue
    • Guided tissue regeneration: fabric used to guide bone regrowth
    • Tissue-stimulating proteins: solutions used to stimulate bone and gum tissue growth

Your dental professional can help you determine the best treatment for you.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.