The Vocabulary of Gum Disease

On your most recent trip to the dentist, he said to you, “You have gum disease.” While he took the time to explain to you what he was seeing, you are now home Googling about gum disease, so you can learn as much as you can. Of course, you are seeing a whole bunch of new terms that you may not know or may not have given much thought to in the past. Use this quick guide to “The Vocabulary of Gum Disease.”

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is an inflammatory disease that affects the soft and hard structures that support the teeth. In its early stage, called gingivitis, the gums become swollen and red due to inflammation, which is the body's natural response to the presence of harmful bacteria.


A dentist who has additional training in periodontics and specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of tissues surrounding the teeth and in the placement and maintenance of dental implants.


Periodontal disease involving bone loss around the teeth.


The first stage of periodontal disease. The gums usually become red, swollen and bleed easily. This is brought on by the bacteria in dental plaque if not removed on a daily basis.


A sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on the teeth. The bacteria in dental plaque is what causes periodontal disease. If plaque is not removed carefully each day by brushing and flossing, it becomes calculus.


Hardened dental plaque. Calculus (or tartar) is usually hard, rough and porous.

Flap Surgery

The periodontist makes an incision in the gum where periodontal pockets have formed. He or she reflects the gum flap away, exposing the tooth root and cleans all infection out from the pocket. Bone regeneration procedures such as bone- grafting may be performed at this point. The periodontist then positions the gum to reduce the pocket and promote healing. The incision is sutured closed following the procedure.

Dental Implants

Artificial substitutes for tooth roots. Made from titanium and placed in the jaw, dental implants are either screw, cylinder or blade in form. Prosthetic teeth are attached to the part of the implant that protrudes through the gum. In many ways, dental implants function like natural teeth.

Root Scaling and Planing

A non-surgical procedure where the periodontist removes plaque and calculus from the periodontal pocket and around the tooth root and smooths the root surfaces to promote healing.

When treated in the early stages, gum disease is a reversible condition. Be sure to brush twice per day, floss daily, use Perfect Smile Oral Care products and regularly visit your dentist for checkups. You can keep your teeth healthy and happy when you take good care of your mouth.

Of course, if you have questions about gum disease, please ask your dentist or periodontist. He/she is your best resource when it comes to treating gum disease.

***Please note all definitions were taken from The American Academy of Periodontology and can be seen at