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Periodontal Disease: Your Complete Guide

What Is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal (perry-o-DON-tal) disease is an infection that affects the tissues and bone that support your teeth. It is also called gum disease.

Periodontal disease can become a very serious problem if it’s not treated early.

This booklet is your complete guide to gum disease and can help you learn about:

  • the causes of gum disease
  • the stages of gum disease
  • how gum disease is diagnosed
  • how gum disease is treated
  • how to keep your mouth healthy after treatment

What Causes Periodontal Disease?

A surprisingly wide variety of bacteria live in your mouth. This is normal. When certain types of bacteria outgrow the others, you may begin to develop gum disease.

Plaque is a sticky film that is always on your teeth. When plaque is left on your teeth and gums, it can harden. Hardened plaque is also called tartar (TAR-ter). Bacteria that live in the plaque can make your gums red, puffy and swollen. Tartar on your teeth makes it hard for you to keep your teeth and gums clean on your own.

When your gums are healthy, your gum tissues tightly hug each of your teeth. When you have gum disease, your gums pull away from your teeth and may become red, puffy and swollen. Spaces called pockets can form, and these pockets collect more bacteria. If the infected pockets are not treated, the disease will get worse.

As the gum disease gets worse, the tissues and bones that support your teeth can become damaged. Over time, your teeth may fall out or need to be removed.

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