Definition:

A dental disorder that results from progression of gingivitis, involving inflammation and infection of the ligaments and bones that support the teeth.

Alternative Names:

Pyorrhea - gum disease; Inflammation of gums - involving bone

Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

Periodontitis caused when inflammation or infection of the gums (gingivitis) is untreated or treatment is delayed. Infection and inflammation spreads from the gums (gingiva) to the ligaments and bone that support the teeth. Loss of support causes the teeth to become loose and eventually fall out. Periodontitis is the primary cause of tooth loss in adults. This disorder is uncommon in childhood but increases during adolescence.

Plaque and tartar (calculus) accumulate at the base of the teeth. Inflammation causes a pocket to develop between the gums and the teeth, which fills with plaque and tartar. Soft tissue swelling traps the plaque in the pocket.

Continued inflammation eventually causes destruction of the tissues and bone surrounding the tooth. Because plaque contains bacteria, infection is likely and a tooth abscess may also develop, which increases the rate of bone destruction.