Periodontitis: Causes and Treatments

Last Updated May 2023

Periodontitis is a form of gum disease. In particular, the bones and ligaments supporting the teeth are infected.

Periodontitis and gingivitis are similar but not identical. They are both part of an ongoing periodontal disease, with gingivitis being the first form of the infection.

Multiple causes and risk factors may lead to periodontitis, including smoking and poor dental hygiene. If left untreated, this dental disease can lead to further issues which, in more aggressive forms of periodontitis, can include tooth loss.

In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at the causes, symptoms, and options for treating periodontitis.

In this article:

What is periodontitis?

Periodontitis is a chronic bacterial infection that impacts the gums and bone which support the teeth. It can be defined as an ‘inflammation around the tooth’ due to its Latin translation:

  • Peri – around
  • Dont – tooth
  • Itis – inflammation.

Periodontitis presents with common gum disease symptoms also seen in gingivitis,such as the presence of plaque on the teeth and gums. Inflammation and infection of the gums result from a build-up of plaque and tartar.

Gingivitis is a milder and reversible form of gum disease, which can typically be treated in a few days with good dental hygiene. However, periodontitis is a severe type of gum disease and often has irreversible effects.

It’s important, therefore, that the infection is caught early and properly treated. Periodontitis can result in the loss of teeth if untreated due to the harm it causes to the surrounding tissue.

There are different stages of periodontitis:

Early periodontitis

In the early stages of periodontitis, the inflamed gums begin to detach themselves from the teeth. This creates a gap in between the gum and tooth, sometimes referred to as a periodontal pocket.

Moderate periodontitis

The little pocket that’s been formed results in an ideal space for plaque to settle. Infection occurs due to this build-up.

Severe periodontitis

When periodontitis reaches the severe, or chronic stage, the infection can destroy the periodontal ligament and result in bone loss around the teeth, which increases the depth of the pocket.

Without treatment, these stages will continue until the tooth loosens so much it will fall out or require removal.

Periodontitis causes

Periodontitis has many causes and contributing factors. Some of the most common include:

Poor oral hygiene

The lack of regular brushing and flossing of the teeth makes it quicker and easier for dental plaque to build and can result in gingivitis.Using LISTERINE® Advanced Defence Gum Treatment can also help create a protective shield,preventing plaque attaching to the gums and treating gum disease.


For those with diabetes, the way their body uses blood sugar is impacted. This means individuals with this condition are more susceptible to getting infections, including periodontitis.

Medications that cause a dry mouth

Without the presence of saliva, the teeth and gums have less protection. Therefore, taking medications that cause a dry mouth can increase the risk of getting periodontal diseases.


Gingivitis can develop in an individual due to a family history of gum disease. These people need to take extra care with their oral hygiene routine.


Those who smoke may be at a higher risk of developing gum disease, as this makes it more difficult for gum tissue to repair itself.

Symptoms of periodontitis

Periodontitis can lead to teeth becoming loose or a severe infection developing.

Although gingivitis and periodontitis are different diseases, early symptoms of periodontitis crossover with symptoms of gingivitis, including:

Mild gingivitis is often symptomless apart from slightly reddened and inflamed gums. However, more severe forms can produce swollen, bleeding and painful gums and can be a sign of imminent periodontitis.

In cases where the symptoms of periodontitis do develop, you should visit a dental professional. These symptoms include:

  • Sensitivity in the teeth
  • Bad breath
  • An unpleasant taste in the mouth
  • Pain when chewing
  • Receding gums
  • Pus forming in pockets between teeth and gums
  • Loose teeth or positional changes

Tooth loss or the need for extraction.

Preventing and treating periodontitis

Unfortunately, there is no cure for periodontitis – although, those who do develop this gum disease will be able to limit its effects by practising good oral hygiene.

Therefore, preventing the development of periodontitis is better than looking to cure it. The use of effective dental care products and a good oral hygiene routine will help.

However, if you do have periodontitis, it’s not too late to take steps to prevent further damage to your teeth and gums.

Prevention of periodontitis

  • Good oral hygiene – brushing, flossing, and rinsing with a germ-fighting mouthwash like LISTERINE® Total Care 10 in 1 to remove plaque build-up on the gums and between the teeth.
  • Regular dental check-ups and professional cleaning.
  • Quitting smoking.

Periodontitis treatment

  • Your dentist may advise surgery or dental treatment. Surgery can be performed to help remove tartar that’s deep under your gums, help heal bones or gums lost due to periodontitis or to cover exposed tooth roots.

You might be referred to a periodontologist (a specialist in treating this disease) if your dentist thinks it’s necessary.

Gingivitis vs periodontitis

There are similarities and differences between gingivitis  and periodontitis, with the former being the milder, early stages of periodontal disease, while the latter is more severe.

In its early stages, periodontitis shares all the features of gingivitis, such as gums swollen around teeth and bleeding when brushing

They are both forms of the same gum disease. However, gingivitis is treatable and reversible, whereas periodontitis is typically permanent. This is how the two conditions differ. The more severe form of gum disease can destroy the periodontal tissues, which usually results in permanent damage and can cause tooth loss.