Periodontitis is an inflammation of the tissues and the gum line that's caused by bacteria in dental plaque. It affects the bones that hold and support your overall teeth structure. It’s typically caused by poor brushing and flossing habits that have allowed plaque build up along the gums. It’s important to treat any infection during the earliest stage to reverse the progression of the disease and control any further bacterial build up.


In most cases periodontitis begins with plaque. If plaque isn’t removed daily through brushing and flossing, it turns into a rough surface called tartar. Further plaque build up eventually infects surrounding areas of your gums and teeth including gum tissues and bones that support the teeth. Below are the stages of periodontitis: 

Stages of Periodontitis


This is the mildest form of periodontal disease. You may notice some redness or swelling of the gums. The bacteria in the plaque build up causes inflammation of the gums and are more sensitive to bleed easily while brushing and flossing. It’s important to note that not all gingivitis progresses to periodontitis and no irreversible bone or tissue damage has occurred. Despite the gums being irritated, the teeth are still firmly in place within the sockets and are not yet affected with permanent damage. 


When Gingivitis is left untreated the infection spreads to the supporting bone and fibres that hold the teeth. This causes teeth to loosen and shift as the bacteria destroys and weakens the gum tissue, affecting your ability to bite and communicate. The inner layer of the gum and bone pull away, forming pockets below the gum line that encourages the growth of plaque in the area which is irreversibly damaged. These areas can collect debris and become infected by the toxins and poisons produced by the bacteria. Despite the body’s immune system fighting the bacteria, the disease starts to break down the bone and connective tissue causing permanent tooth loss. Below are the most common types of periodontitis that is common to adults and children. 

Chronic Periodontitis

A common and well known type of periodontitis, affecting mostly adults. This type is categorised by the damaging effects of slow deterioration by plaque build up. The destruction of the gums and bones gets worse over time, leading to loss of teeth if not treated immediately. 

Aggressive Periodontitis

Is common to occur during childhood or early adolescent years. It’s a rare form that affects only a small number of people. Patients experience a rapid rate of periodontal tissue & bone loss that may commence before puberty. 

Necrotizing Periodontal Disease

Necrosis is used to describe the death of gum tissue and tooth ligaments caused by lack of blood flow to the area. This group of infection is relatively rare and generally occurs to people with suppressed immunity systems including, HIV infection, cancer treatment or malnutrition.

Signs & Symptoms

Plaque is the primary cause of periodontitis. Our mouths are full of bacteria including mucus and other food particles, which when unattended to, increase the risk of forming tartar. It’s important to be aware of the following symptoms as early stages of periodontitis can show subtle effects and often are not very noticeable. The symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Bleeding or tender gums
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Foul taste in the mouth
  • Tooth loss
  • Inflammatory response throughout the body
  • Loose or wobbly teeth
  • Painful chewing
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Receding gums/gum line

Cause of Periodontitis

Risk factors that can contribute to periodontitis are:

  • Bad habits such as smoking, slow down the healing process of the gums and can make treatments unsuccessful. 
  • Poor oral hygiene makes it easier for bacteria to spread and progress to gingivitis. Having a brushing and flossing daily regime will minimise the risk of infection and plaque build up.
  • Family history of dental disease 
  • Certain illnesses may affect and interfere with the immune system, affecting the condition of your gums and being at a greater risk of developing infections. 

Helpful Tips & Ways to Prevent Periodontal Disease

Practising good oral hygiene can stop the progression of the infection when detected at an early stage. This consists of scheduling regular check ups to receive professional cleaning by your dentist. Changing lifestyle and health choices such as stopping smoking, reducing stress, eating foods with antioxidant properties and making sure to brush and floss twice a day will decrease the risk of gum disease. 

When Visiting Your Dentist

Although regular brushing and flossing will allow you to keep plaque in check, visiting your dentist regularly to have your teeth professionally cleaned is highly recommended. Dentists can remove tartar that may have built up over time and can monitor your overall oral health to prevent any serious problems. If you do have any concerns about your current oral hygiene or are concerned about periodontitis, ask your dentist to discuss your gum health at your next visit. 

Ask for a personalised oral care program to assist with your daily oral regime. If you do experience any of the warning signs and symptoms, contact your dentist immediately to schedule an appointment to identify and prevent any problems that may require more comprehensive treatment.