Restorative Dentistry |3 min read

What is Periodontal Disease?

A woman checking her gums for symptoms of periodontal disease

Periodontal disease is an infection of the gum tissues that hold your teeth in place. It’s typically caused by poor brushing and flossing habits that allow plaque—a sticky film of bacteria—to build up on the teeth and harden.

This condition can lead to sore, bleeding gums, painful chewing problems, and even tooth loss in advanced stages.

Periodontal diseases are generally divided into two groups: Gingivitis and Periodontitis.


This refers to swollen gums and is considered a milder form of gum disease.

Gingivitis is characterized by tender, red, swollen gums that bleed easily and may cause bad breath (halitosis).


This type of periodontal disease involves damage to the bone and connective tissue that support the teeth and is a more serious form of gum disease.

Periodontitis is an inflammation of supporting tissues surrounding teeth that occurs when the gum tissues separate from the tooth.

Symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Bad breath that won’t go away;
  • Red or swollen gums;
  • Tender or bleeding gums;
  • Pain when chewing;
  • Loose teeth;
  • Sensitive teeth;
  • Receding gums or teeth appearing longer.

Early periodontal disease

In the early stages, your gums recede, or pull away, from your teeth, and small pockets form between your gums and teeth. The pockets harbor harmful bacteria, and you’ll likely experience bleeding while brushing and flossing.

Moderate periodontal disease

If left to progress to the moderate stage, you might experience bleeding and pain around the teeth and gum. Your teeth will probably begin to loosen. The infection can also lead to an inflammatory response throughout your body.

Advanced periodontal disease

In cases of advanced periodontal disease, the connective tissue that holds your teeth in place begins to deteriorate. The gums, bones, and other tissue that support your teeth are destroyed.

You will experience pain when chewing, notice a constant taste in your mouth, and loose teeth.


Your mouth is full of bacteria. These bacteria constantly form a sticky, colorless “plaque” on teeth, which can harden and form “tartar” if it’s left for long (48 hours). Tartar can only be removed through professional cleaning from a dentist or dental hygienist.

As such, it’s extremely important to be thorough when flossing and brushing. Failing to do so will almost certainly lead to gum disease.

There are a number of risk factors for gum disease, but smoking is the most significant. These risk factors can also make treatment more difficult. Other risk factors include diabetes and certain hormonal changes.

How to prevent periodontal disease

Consistent good dental hygiene can help prevent periodontal disease.

The American Dental Association recommends that you:

  • Brush at least twice daily with fluoride toothpaste;
  • Replace toothbrushes every 1 to 3 months;
  • Clean between the teeth with floss or an interdental cleaner;
  • Eat a well-balanced diet and limit snacking between meals;
  • Have regular visits with a dentist for teeth cleaning and oral examinations;
  • Reduce or stop smoking.

Long-term risks of untreated periodontal disease

If left untreated, gingivitis will progress into periodontitis. This is a more severe stage of gum disease. The infection will deepen and eat away at your jaw until your teeth become loose and fall out.

As the disease progresses, the gums recede or separate from the teeth and the jawbone. This can lead to changes in your bite and pain while chewing or biting.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms described in this article, contact The Silberman Dental Group for an appointment or use the link below.

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Our dentists are located in Waldorf, MD, and see patients from across the state, including Charlotte Hall, White Plains, La Plata, Brandywine, Accokeek, and Mechanicsville.

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