Periodontal disease is the result of an infection caused by the bacteria found in plaque and tartar (calcified plaque). In response to the bacteria, our immune system produces toxins that unfortunately target healthy tissue as well. Eventually, these toxins produce the infection we call periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease is broken up into two main stages: gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is the first and most common form of the disease, causing gums to become inflamed and bleed easily during brushing. The gums change to a bright red color as well. Although the gums may be irritated, there is no irreversible tissue or bone damage at this stage.
Without treatment, gingivitis will progress into periodontitis. Periodontitis is far more serious than gingivitis. At this stage, the infection spreads to the connective ligaments and alveolar (supportive) bone. The inner layer of the gum tissue also pulls away from the teeth to form deep periodontal pockets. These pockets trap food debris and bacteria, which further contributes to the disease.
As the disease progresses, the gum tissues, connective ligaments, and alveolar bone begin to deteriorate. Eventually, the teeth are no longer securely attached to their sockets. When this happens, tooth loss will occur. Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in the United States.