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Health > Dental Health > Periodontal diseases

Periodontal diseases (Gum diseases)

Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues that support the teeth. The gums do not attach to the teeth as firmly as one might think. A shallow, V-shaped gap called a sulcus exists between the teeth and the gums. Periodontal disease affects this gap. Eventually, in periodontal disease, the tissues supporting the tooth break down. If only the gums are involved in this breakdown, the disease is called gingivitis. If only the connecting tissues and bone are involved, it is called periodontitis.

Causes or factors that worsen gum disease include the following:

Because of a dulled immune response and less oxygen in the mouth, smokers are 2-7 times more likely to develop periodontitis than nonsmokers.

Diabetes worsens periodontal disease. If a person's blood sugar level is poorly controlled, a worse infection, poor healing, and a greater loss of bone and connective tissue are likely.

Stress increases certain hormones that make a person more susceptible to infection. Pregnancy and birth control pills can also increase hormone levels.

Steroids, antiseizure medicines, cancer medicines, and blood pressure medicines can all affect the gums. Some drugs decrease the flow of saliva, irritating the mouth and making it prone to infection.


Regular visits to the dentist for cleaning and x-ray films helps prevent periodontal disease. Inform the dentist of any health problems or current medications being taken. Teeth do not have to be lost to periodontal disease. With proper care, a person's teeth should last a lifetime.

Self-Care at Home

Good oral hygiene prevents periodontal disease.

Brush the teeth at least twice every day. Brushing removes plaque from the inner, outer, and chewing surfaces of each tooth. A dental hygienist can demonstrate the proper technique.

Get a new toothbrush every 3 months.

Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride.

Floss every day. Flossing removes plaque between the teeth that a toothbrush cannot reach.

Use a mouthwash that kills bacteria.

Eat a well-balanced diet; avoid too many sweets.

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