Frequently Asked Questions About Pe


Periodontal or gum disease is an infection of the soft and hard tissue that support your teeth. It is caused when plaque — a sticky film of bacteria — builds up on the teeth. Brushing and flossing help get rid of plaque, if it hardens into tartar, it must be removed with a professional cleaning.1

Early-stage gum disease, known as gingivitis, gums become red, swollen and there may be some bleeding when brushing and/or flossing. Gingivitis can be reversed with treatment from your dentist and good oral hygiene.1 If gingivitis is not professionally treated it may progress into periodontitis.1 Periodontitis occurs when plaque and tartar build up below the gumline causing increased irritation, inflammation, and gum pockets (space between your teeth and gums) that cause infection. As periodontitis worsens, the pockets get deeper and the bone that supports the teeth is lost. If left untreated, this eventually leads to tooth loss.1

If you’ve ever heard your dentist or dental hygienist calling out numbers and noting them in your dental chart at your regular checkup, then you’ve experienced “pocket probing” or “charting.” As part of a routine checkup, dental teams will use a tiny ruler to complete a periodontal examination to measure the pocket depth around each tooth and check for bleeding. Detection of bleeding and pockets of four or more millimeters are one way for your dentist to identify gum disease.1

There are other risk factors for gum disease, such as smoking, diabetes, medications that lessen saliva and others1 , be sure to inform your dental team to help them quickly diagnose any gum disease and to begin developing a treatment plan.

Your dentist may treat your periodontal (gum) disease or refer you to a periodontist. A periodontist is a dentist who is an expert in the diagnoses and treatment of the gums and bone surrounding the teeth.1

The goal of treatment is to control the infection. All treatment requires the patient have excellent home care, brushing and flossing as directed by their dental team. Depending on the extent of disease, your dentist or periodontist may recommend a non-surgical procedure called scaling and root planing. 2 During scaling and root planing, the dentist or hygienist removes the tartar and plaque above and below the gumline on the root surfaces and may also smooth the exposed tooth root surfaces (root planing) to help prevent future bacteria and toxins from adhering to tooth surfaces.2

For many patients, no additional treatments will be required, however nearly all patients will need ongoing maintenance to sustain gum health.2

The CDC reports that in the US, 47.2% of adults aged 30 years and older have some form gum disease, and it increases with age, noting that 70.1% of adults 65 years and older are infected.3

Several studies have shown links between gum disease and systemic diseases, the causal relationship has yet to be conclusively established.4 Research does suggest gum disease may contribute to4

  • Diabetes – gum disease is often considered a complication of diabetes
  • Heart disease – gum disease may increase risk for heart disease, it can also exacerbate existing heart conditions.
  • Respiratory disease – bacteria associated with gum disease can be aspirated (inhaled) into the lungs and contribute to diseases like pneumonia.
  • Alzheimer’s disease – bacteria associated with gum disease may travel to the brain and contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s.

More research needs to be done, but it's a fact that controlling periodontal disease can save your teeth1 – these are just a few more reasons to take care of your teeth and gums.

  • Am I at risk for periodontal disease?
  • What can I do to reduce my risk?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • How can I protect my smile and my overall health now that I have been diagnosed with gum disease?

1 National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. “Periodontal (Gum) Disease: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments”,, accessed 07-27-2022.

2 American Academy of Periodontology, “Non-Surgical Treatments”,, accessed 07-27-2022.

3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Periodontal Disease”,, accessed 07- 27-2022