Periodontitis: Diagnosis and Treatment

Periodontal disease is a common condition that causes severe damage to your oral health and overall health. 47.2% adult Americans aged 30 and older have different stages of periodontal disease, while 70.1% adults aged 65 and older are affected by periodontal disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Periodontal disease is usually caused by inflammation or an infection in the gums and bone surrounding teeth. Gingivitis is its mildest form, where the gums bleed and swell.

Periodontitis is its more severe form that can lead to bone loss, loose teeth, and gums pulling away from the tooth. Leaving it untreated also increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, and more.

Risk Factors of Periodontitis

These factors can increase the risk of periodontitis:

  • Poor oral health habits
  • Chewing or smoking tobacco
  • Hormonal changes related to pregnancy or menopause
  • Recreational drug use
  • Obesity
  • Inadequate nutrition, including vitamin C deficiency
  • Genetics
  • Medications that cause dryness or changes in the gums
  • Conditions that lower immunity like leukemia or HIV/AIDS, or undergoing treatments for cancer
  • Diseases like Chron’s disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis

Symptoms of Periodontitis

Gum disease should not be a concern. Periodontal disease is something you need to be aware of. According to Century Dental, a dentist in South Pasadena, these are the four most obvious signs of periodontal disease:

  1. Bad Breath

Bacteria found in the pockets caused by periodontitis or those in tartar can cause bad breath. Your mouth is a warm, comfortable place perfect for bacteria to thrive.

  1. Shifting Teeth

Gum disease can cause your teeth to shift and loosen up. This may change your teeth’ alignment, increasing the risk of tooth decay, plaque, and tartar formation.

  1. Swollen Gums

Swollen gums are one of the first signs you may have gum disease. Gum disease usually starts with inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) that may progress to more severe periodontal diseases.

  1. Sensitive Teeth

You may feel a little uncomfortable when you drink cold or warm beverages; this sensitivity to warm or cold foods and drinks is another sign of gum disease. You may also experience this with shrinking gums.

How Do Dentists Diagnose Periodontitis?

Dentists can detect early signs of periodontitis during routine checkups. Regular visits to your dentist are important because they can screen you for periodontal disease and monitor your periodontal health over time to ensure it doesn’t worsen.

Your dentist may use a small ruler called a probe to measure the pockets of your gums, and this test is almost always painless. They may also clean your teeth if you have tartar or plaque present. They may also recommend digital X-rays of your teeth so they can refer you to a periodontist, an expert in diagnosing and treating gum diseases.

How Is Periodontitis Treated?

A dentist, a periodontist, or a dental hygiene specialist can treat periodontitis. Treatments aim to clean the pockets surrounding your teeth and prevent bone loss. Their success depends on good oral hygiene routines, managing any health issues affecting your oral health, and quitting cigarette smoking.

Good  Oral Hygiene Practices

Most dentists will provide instructions to help you reduce the bacteria in your mouth, like keeping your gums and teeth clean. They can also give tips on using dental floss and toothbrushes correctly and recommend other oral hygiene products like mouthwash or water picks.

Some of their tips and recommendations may include:

  • Brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice daily
  • Using an electric toothbrush
  • Flossing at least once a day
  • Quitting tobacco smoking and chewing.

Professional Cleaning Services

Dentists can clean your teeth and remove tartar and plaque that irritate your gums. They also apply fluoride treatments after cleaning your teeth. Periodontal pockets may need deep cleaning techniques like scaling and root planing to remove all the tartar from the roots and smoothen areas where bacteria can grow on your teeth.


Sometimes, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics for persistent gum infections that don’t respond to regular cleanings. You might receive the antibiotic as a gel, mouthwash, oral tablet, or capsule.

 Follow-up Appointments

Your dentist will need you to come back after a few weeks, then three to six months, to evaluate and monitor your treatment progress. They may recommend surgery and other treatment options if the periodontal pockets remain.


Your dentist may recommend flap surgery to remove any deposits persisting in places that are difficult to floss or brush. Dentists numb the area before lifting your gums to clean the roots of your teeth. Then, they stitch your gums back into place.

You may also undergo bone grafting if you suffer from bone loss together with flap surgery to help regenerate the bone you lost.

 Key Takeaway

Periodontitis is a common condition affecting many people. It is the worst form of periodontal disease, and dentists easily diagnose it during routine checkups. They may prescribe treatments like better oral hygiene practices, professional deep cleaning, antibiotics, and surgery.

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