Periodontitis is an infection of the periodontium, or one of the four tissues that support the teeth in the mouth:

l The gingiva, or gum tissue

l The cementum, or outer layer of the roots of teeth

l The alveolar bone, or the bony sockets into which the teeth are anchored

l The PDL, or periodontal ligament, which are the connective tissue fibers that connect the cementum and the gingiva to the alveolar bone.

If left untreated, periodontitis causes progressive bone loss around teeth, looseness of the teeth and eventual tooth loss. Periodontitis is a very common disease affecting approximately  adults over the age of 30 years. Periodontitis is thought to occur in people who have preexisting gingivitis – an infection that is limited to the soft tissues surrounding the tooth and does not cause attachment or bone loss. The cause of gingivitis is the accumulation of a bacterial matrix at the gum line, called dental plaque. In some people, gingivitis progresses to periodontitis – the gum tissues separate from the tooth and, with loss of the PDL, form a periodontal pocket. Subgingival bacteria (those that exist under the gum line) that exist in periodontal pockets can cause further inflammation in the gum tissues and further loss of attachment and bone.

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Ask the Dentist

P. O. Box 981, Basseterre, St. Kitts