Periodontitis, or periodontal disease, is the inflammation and infection of the tissues that surround teeth. Those tissues are mainly the gums, the supporting bone, the periodontal ligament and the cementum, which together are called the periodontium.
If the inflammation has only affected the gums, it is called gingivitis and it can normally be treated with good oral hygiene. But when inflammation reaches deeper tissues like the bone, the disease is then called periodontitis. This condition is diagnosed by the detecting with a probe the presence of pockets around teeth (spaces between gums and teeth) and by the loss of bone level seen on dental x-rays.
Periodontitis is more difficult to treat than gingivitis. Improved oral hygiene at home is not enough. Curettage and root planning by the dentist or by the periodontist (gum specialist) is needed, and sometimes-even surgery depending on how aggressive the disease is. If periodontitis is not treated, teeth eventually become loose and fall out.
It’s important to note that gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease, and if not taken care of with proper oral care, it can quickly lead to periodontitis.