Periodontal (gum) diseases are a group of diseases that affect the tissues that support and anchor the teeth. Left untreated, periodontal disease results in the destruction of the gums, alveolar bone (the part of the jaws where the teeth arise), and the outer layer of the tooth root.

Adult periodontitis is the most serious form of the periodontal diseases. It involves the gingiva, periodontal ligament, and alveolar bone. A deep periodontal pocket forms between the teeth, the cementum, and the gums. Plaque, calculus, and debris from food and other sources collect in the pocket. Without treatment, the periodontal ligament can be destroyed and resorption of the alveolar bone occurs. This allows the teeth to move more freely and eventually results in the loss of teeth. Most cases of adult periodontitis are chronic, but some cases occur in episodes or periods of tissue destruction.

Gingivitis is an inflammation of the outermost soft tissue of the gums. The gingivae become red and inflamed, loose their normal shape, and bleed easily. Gingivitis may remain a chronic disease for years without affecting other periodontal tissues.  This form of gingivitis is characterized by painful, bleeding gums, and death (necrosis) and erosion of gingival tissue between the teeth. It is thought that stress, malnutrition, fatigue, and poor oral hygiene are among the causes for acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis.

Healthy gums support the teeth. When gingivitis goes untreated, the gums become weak and pockets form around the teeth. Plaque and tartar build up in the pockets, the gum recedes, and periodontitis occurs.

Tartar can only be removed by professional dental treatment. Following treatment, periodontal tissues usually heal quickly. Gingivitis caused by vitamin deficiencies is treated by administering the needed vitamin. There are no useful drugs to treat herpetic gingivostomatitis. Because of the pain associated with the herpes lesions, patients may not brush their teeth while the lesions are present. Herpes lesions heal by themselves without treatment. After the herpetic lesions have disappeared, the gums usually return to normal if good oral hygiene is resumed. Pericoronitis is treated by removing debris under the flap of gum covering the molar. This operation is usually performed by a dentist. Surgery is used to remove molars that are not likely to form properly.

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