Can Plaque Cause Periodontal Disease?

Periodontics Forest Hills, NY

There are numerous causes of periodontal disease, with dental plaque being the leading one. Also known as gum disease, periodontal disease has numerous stages, and it is important to catch it early before it leads to more serious issues. The good news about gum disease is it is preventable with proper treatment of plaque.

Plaque and how it affects dental health

Plaque forms regularly on the teeth. This very sticky substance is created from acids produced from bacteria that feed off starchy and sugary food and beverages. Without proper brushing and flossing, these acids lead to a buildup of plaque that in turn can cause various dental issues.

Plaque can start building up within 20 minutes of eating or drinking. This buildup destroys the enamel of the teeth, which can result in tooth decay, gum disease and infection of the jawbone.

Stages of periodontal disease

Periodontal disease is a serious infection of the gums. Damage occurs over time, and there are numerous stages of the disease based on the amount of destruction to the gum and bone tissues that surround the teeth.


Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease, and damage can be reversed if caught at this point. At this stage, the gums are inflamed, with signs including swelling, redness and occasional bleeding. The irritated gums begin to lose attachment to the surrounding teeth. This exposes excess enamel and forms a periodontal pocket. Common gingivitis treatments are improved oral hygiene, root planing and tooth scaling.

Early periodontitis

If gingivitis is not treated, the next stage is early periodontitis. This occurs when the inflammation spreads to the bone that supports the teeth. During the early stages, the bacterial plaque continues to burrow between the gums and teeth. This supports the production of bacteria under the gums in gingival pockets.

Symptoms of this stage are gum swelling, gum separation, bleeding, unpleasant breath and slight bone loss. Treatment is the same as it is for gingivitis. Although periodontal disease at this stage is irreversible, there is minimal bone loss, so treatment can stop it from getting worse.

Moderate periodontitis

At this stage, the surrounding tissues and bone become extremely infected. The toxins from the bacteria, as well as the infection-fighting enzymes, further break down the gum tissue and bone. Signs include gum recession, periodontal abscesses, root surface exposure, moderate bone loss and loose teeth.

Some damage control can be done at this stage. Treatment includes surgical methods to stop disease progression.

Advanced periodontitis

This is the final stage of periodontal disease. At this point, the infection has become so severe that teeth begin to fall out. Common signs include spontaneous bleeding, sensitive teeth, pus drainage, constant bad breath, drifting teeth and severe bone loss.

Teeth may need to be extracted to clear the infection. To save the teeth, extensive surgery, which includes grafting of the hard and soft tissues, may be necessary.


Periodontal disease is serious, and the prognosis is not good for people who reach the advanced stages. To manage plaque and avoid advanced gum disease, good habits such as brushing, flossing and limiting sugar are necessary.

Request an appointment here: or call Metro Smiles Dental at (718) 841-9591 for an appointment in our Forest Hills office.

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