Periodontal (gum) disease is a bacterial infection of the gums and bone that holds the teeth in place. It begins as a low-grade infection known as gingivitis. Because gum disease develops gradually, there are usually very few warning signs, and patients may be unaware that deterioration is occurring to their gums and other oral tissues. Due to the lack of warning signs, periodontal disease affects approximately 75% of the population.

Gingivitis occurs when the infection is localized in the gum tissue around the teeth. Gum tissue with gingivitis shows moderate inflammation (swelling). Periodontal probes extend 3-5mm deep, and infection has not spread into the supporting bone. Bleeding will also be present when probing.


Radiographs taken of patients with gingivitis show no deterioration of the supporting bone, as the infection has not yet spread from the gums into the bone. (The solid line on this picture indicates a proper bone level.


When gingivitis is untreated, it progresses into a more severe form of gum disease known as periodontitis. Periodontitis occurs when the infection spreads into the jawbone beneath the gum tissue, causing deterioration of the bone support for teeth.

While gum tissue may only show signs of mild inflammation, periodontal probes extend down at 8mm. Bone and gum tissue deteriorate and recede, and eventually lead to tooth loss. Patients may be unaware that deterioration is occurring.


Radiographs of patients with periodontitis reveal deterioration of bone support. (The dotted line indicates the level of diseased bone. The solid line indicates where a healthy bone level should be.)


Causes of Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria that becomes trapped under the gum line. Other factors that contribute to periodontal disease include smoking, genetics, certain medical conditions, and poor oral hygiene.

These teeth have been lost because of periodontal disease. The bacteria that caused the disease have calcified on the root portion of these teeth and are visible as calculus (tartar). Before the bacteria calcify on the root surfaces, they live in a soft, white matrix with food particles, known as plaque.

Our experienced periodontists can diagnose and treat both gingivitis and periodontitis. We invite you to call Periodontics of the Desert at 760-674-4410 for more information about periodontal disease and schedule your appointment with Dr. Peter Warshawsky, Dr. Eric Driver and Dr. Robert H. Lacrampe in Palm Desert, California.