Periodontitis refers to an inflammation and infection that causes permanent damage to the tissues that surround and support the teeth. If it progresses sufficiently, it can lead to the loosening and subsequent loss of the teeth. Periodontitis is caused by bacterial plaque and hardened plaque, called calculus (tartar). A diagnosis of periodontitis is made when it is confirmed there is a loss of bone around the teeth.
Chronic Periodontitis, the most common form of the disease, progresses relatively slowly and typically becomes clinically evident in adulthood. Most of the time no pain or evidence of the disease exists. While the causative factor is bacterial plaque, the condition is worsened by smoking and tends to cause more rapid bone destruction in people suffering from insulin dependent diabetes. Periodontal disease has recently been determined to be an aggravating factor in cardiovascular disease and heart attack.
Acute periodontitis (periodontal abscess), which can be a flareup of the chronic condition, often is accompanied by the symptoms of pain and swelling.