Periodontal Disease Demystified: Causes, Prevalence and Treatment

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of oral health among Americans today. Not only does maintaining good oral hygiene help preserve the outward appearance of gums and teeth, doing so also promotes excellent overall health. Recent studies have shown several links between periodontal disease and a variety of other chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

Identifying and treating periodontal disease early on provides a greater chance of preserving overall health, as well as the health of your gums and mouth.


What is Periodontal Disease?

According to the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP), periodontal disease, also commonly known as gum disease, is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the gum tissue and bone supporting the teeth. Periodontal disease is commonly marked by two distinct stages – gingivitis and periodontitis.

The appearance of gingivitis marks the early stages of periodontal disease. During this stage, the body attempts to mount a natural response to harmful bacteria located just below the gum line. As a result, the gums swell and become red due to inflammation. Untreated cases of gingivitis eventually progress to periodontitis, a more severe form of periodontal disease.

The harmful bacteria cause the gums to detach and retreat further away from the tooth, exposing bone while destroying the supporting gum tissues around the tooth. If left untreated, periodontal disease eventually results in tooth decay and the complete loss of the tooth itself.


Statistics show periodontal disease in the U.S. as a shockingly large and disturbing epidemic in spite of efforts to promote good oral health in adults. According to recent data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of two American adults over the age of 30 suffers from some form of periodontal disease. Of the 64.7 million adults currently suffering from periodontal disease, 30 percent have a moderate form of periodontitis while 8.7 percent have a mild form of the disease. 8.5 percent of adults in the U.S. suffer from severe periodontitis.

According to findings collected within the CDC’s 2009-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), men were more likely to have a prevalence of periodontitis than women. 56.4 percent of patients surveyed under the 2009-2010 NHANES were men while 38.4 percent were women. Mexican-Americans are more likely to have periodontal disease than other groups, with a prevalence rate of 66.7 percent.

64.2 percent of people currently suffering from periodontal disease are current smokers. Other groups most likely to develop periodontal disease include those with less than a high school diploma and those living below the federal poverty level. Older Americans are also more likely to have an advanced form of periodontal disease. In fact, approximately 11.88 percent of sufferers are over the age of 50.

What Causes Periodontal Disease?

The human body has hundreds of species of bacteria within the mouth at any given moment. The vast majority of these bacteria are actually beneficial to overall health. However, harmful bacteria can also take advantage of this welcoming environment if given the opportunity to do so. Excellent oral hygiene as well as living a healthy lifestyle keeps harmful bacteria in check.

In patients with poor oral hygiene, a buildup of plaque and tartar below the gum line creates a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. This bacteria goes on to infect and breakdown the underlying connective tissue between the teeth, resulting in microscopic lesions and inflammation from excess fluid buildup throughout the infected area. The supporting gum tissues first become inflamed and eventually detach from the tooth.


Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult for dental hygienists to determine exactly which species of bacteria is responsible for periodontal disease. Nevertheless, there are a variety of tools and techniques that are useful in dealing with periodontal issues.

In most cases, the first step involves removing plaque and tartar from tooth surfaces. Hardened tartar that proves difficult to remove through regular brushing may have to be removed through mechanical scraping of the tooth. Periodontal scaling and root planning removes more stubborn instances of plaque and tartar buildup. These deep cleaning techniques prove extraordinarily effective at treating periodontal disease before it advances into a severe case.

Some cases of periodontal disease can also be treated with the use of Periostat (Doxycycline), an orally administered antibiotic that inhibits the body’s response to harmful bacteria, thereby improving the overall conditions of the disease. Use of enzymes found in a variety of oral health products can also help prevent plaque and tartar formation while denying harmful bacteria an environment where it can flourish.


Practicing good oral hygiene at every opportunity is the best way to prevent instances of periodontal disease. Excellent hygiene combined with a healthy diet and plenty of vigorous exercise can help reduce the prospects of developing periodontal disease.


  2. How to Prevent Periodontal Gum Disease

Courtney Merz

Courtney enjoys writing about health issues in her spare time, along with painting and reading.

One thought on “Periodontal Disease Demystified: Causes, Prevalence and Treatment

  • July 27, 2013 at 11:04 am

    nice and admirable post I really need to visit such post.


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