What is periodontal (gum) disease?

Also known as gum disease, affect nearly 64.7 million people in the United States (almost one in every two adults over the age of 30). It is an infection of the gum tissues that occurs when bacterial plaque (stick layer of microorganism) start to accumulate around the teeth surfaces and below the gum line in the absence of effective oral hygiene. As bacterial plaque continually accumulates around teeth, it hardens to from tartar. Bacterial plaque and tartar irritates the gum tissue by triggering an inflammatory response resulting in inflamed reddened tissue, swelling, bleeding of gum tissue and bad breath. This initial stages of gum disease is known as gingivitis.


If infection is left untreated, gingivitis can progress to more severe form of periodontal disease known as periodontitis that destroy the supporting bone that holds the teeth in place and cause formation of “deep pocket” (gap that forms between the teeth and gum tissue). The deep pocket are filled with bacteria that thrives in deep and dark environment. The bacteria inside of the deep pocket are difficult to reach and cannot be easily removed leading to continuous loss of supporting bone resulting in loosening and shifting of teeth and eventually tooth loss. The progression of periodontal disease is silent in nature, often without any pain or discomfort.


Periodontal disease not only affect your mouth but can also affect your overall health. There are strong association between periodontal disease and many systemic conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes , rheumatoid arthritis, and pregnancy complications. The good news is that with appropriate periodontal treatment and excellent oral hygiene, the periodontal disease can be prevented and/or stopped.



The first step to preventing periodontal disease is by brushing at least twice a day and flossing once a day to remove plaque and debris from between the teeth and below the gum line. The American Academy of Periodontology also recommends that all adults receive a comprehensive periodontal evaluation annually. 

Risk Factors

  • Poor Oral Health Habits: Without twice-daily brushing and regular flossing, there is an increased likelihood of plaque buildup.

  • Age: Adults age 65 and over have higher incidences of periodontal disease, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Medications: Certain drugs can reduce the flow of saliva. Without adequate saliva production, the mouth can become a breeding ground for bacteria.

  • Tobacco Use: Users of cigarettes and chewing tobacco are at an increased risk of periodontal disease. Tobacco use is said to be one of the most significant risk factors in the development and progression of periodontal disease.

  • Genetic Predisposition: Research has found some individuals may be genetically susceptible to periodontal disease.



If periodontal disease is suspected, the next best step is to seek the counsel of a periodontist. Depending on the severity of disease, Dr. Hong may recommend a number of treatments ranging from deep cleaning, medication, or surgery. There are also a number of procedures to restore aesthetics and function in the event of tooth loss. Treatment may also include a care routine and the avoidance of certain habits like smoking


Source: American Academy of Periodontology – 2018