Periodontitis is a severe form of gingivitis in which the inflammation of the gums extends to the supporting structures of the tooth.
Plaque and tartar build up between the teeth and gums and then spread to the bone under the teeth.
The gums swell and bleed, the breath smells bad, and teeth become loose.
Doctors take x-rays and measure the depth of pockets in the gums to determine how severe periodontitis is.
Repeated professional cleanings and sometimes dental surgery and antibiotics are needed.
Periodontitis occurs in people who are susceptible to a more serious infection of periodontal tissue (tissue surrounding the teeth) than occurs in simple gingivitis. Many diseases and disorders, including diabetes (especially type 1), Down syndrome, Crohn disease, leukopenia, and AIDS, can predispose a person to periodontitis. In people with AIDS, periodontitis progresses quickly. Smoking, vitamin C deficiency (scurvy), and emotional distress also are risk factors for periodontitis.
Periodontitis can affect people of any age, including young children. Some people have severe gingivitis for many years without developing periodontitis. Others may develop periodontitis, especially at early ages (20 to 30 years old), without first having significant gingivitis.
Periodontitis is one of the main causes of tooth loss in adults and is the main cause of tooth loss in older people. Infection destroys the bone that holds the teeth in place. The erosion weakens the attachments and loosens the teeth. An affected tooth may eventually fall out or need to be pulled (extracted).