Periodontitis (Periodontal Disease, Gum Disease)
Periodontitis involves the gums and support tissues of the teeth. Periodontitis develops from gingivitis, where the surface of the gums is inflamed due to toxins released by bacteria in plaque. This immune response can lead to degradation of teeth and gums along the gum line and the formation of small pockets in the gums. Bacteria can become trapped in these pockets and colonise the space, so further tooth and gum degradation occur. Once degradation has occurred in the ligaments and bone that support and hold the teeth the damage is permanent and irreversible. Teeth are lost and abscesses may form.
Not everyone who develops gingivitis will develop periodontitis, but all people with periodontitis began with gingivitis. People who are more prone to developing periodontitis include those with a family history of the disease, people with poor oral hygiene, smokers, pregnant woman, diabetics, people on certain medications and those with compromised immune systems. Periodontal treatment is usually provided by a periodontist. For more information please view the New Zealand Society of Periodontology website.