Medical folks like to come up with all sorts of fancy, big, and confusing words to describe things. (It’s not just medical professionals either… pretty much every occupation has its jargon that confuses outsiders.)

Periodontal disease is one of those big, fancy words in dentistry that confuses a lot of people. Let’s break it down a bit here to make sure you’re not confused by it any more.

“Peri” means around.

“Odontal” is about the teeth.

Put it together and what’s that spell?! Periodontal! Periodontal! Periodontal! YAY!

(Sorry, got a little carried away there.)

Anyway, it simply means “around the teeth”. And that’s what Periodontal Disease is… a disease that occurs around the teeth.

It can also be referred to as “Gum Disease” which is shorter and easier to pronounce so let’s just stick with that variation for now.

Gum disease is actually quite common in the U.S. where there are more than 3 million cases per year. It usually doesn’t strike people until they get to their 30s or 40s. And it tends to be more common for men than women.

Gums that are red, swollen and/or bleed when you brush could all be signs that you’ve got gum disease. So if you’re experiencing any of those symptoms and haven’t had your teeth checked out for a while, it’s a good idea to visit your dentist or a periodontist.

Gum disease is caused by bacteria in your mouth. (It may be kinda gross to think about bacteria in your mouth, but there’s a lot of bacteria in there and most of won’t cause you any problems so long as you brush, floss and visit your dentist regularly.)

As is the case with the various media outlets, there are degrees of seriousness when it comes to gum disease.

In its most mild form, it’s referred to as Gingivitis. Gingivitis can usually be treated with brushing, flossing and a trip to the dentist. Easy, right?

If it’s not treated, then things can advance to Periodontitis, which is about as horrible as it sounds. Periodontitis is an all out infection of the gums. As the body fights the infection, the bone and connective tissue that hold the teeth in place can start to break down. Let this go without professional help long enough and the gums, tissue and bone will be destroyed.

If that happens, it’s bye bye teeth.

The good news is that Periodontal Disease is treatable. Deep cleaning, medications and/or lasers are all options for treating it. Best bet if you have gum disease is to find a qualified Periodontist to examine your mouth and discuss treatment options for you.

To find a Periodontist near you, search the listings here.