What is Periapical Periodontitis?

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  • Written By: Nicole Long
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 06 September 2019
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Inflammation of the soft tissue around the root of a tooth is considered periapical periodontitis. The cause of periapical periodontitis is bacteria that go untreated. Common symptoms associated with the various stages of the disease include swelling, pain, loose teeth, and further tooth and bone damage.

Bacteria build up as plaque on the surface of the tooth, resulting in the formation of tartar. Tartar is a hardened plaque which begins to irritate the gums. This bacterial tartar is the main cause of periapical periodontitis.

Periapical periodontitis is classified as general, acute, or unspecified. When dentists classify the disease as general, the disease is on the external surfaces of the gums and soft tissues around the teeth. Acute forms of the disease mean the disease has penetrated the tooth.

The beginning stage of the disease is referred to as gingivitis. During this phase, a dentist will find evidence of inflammation between the teeth and gums. This will often lead to bleeding while brushing and flossing. A diagnosis of gingivitis provides a patient an opportunity to undergo procedures, such as dental scaling, to remove the bacteria and begin to focus on healthy oral care practices to prevent progression of the disease into a more severe problem.


Without proper treatment, those with gingivitis will experience the worsening of periapical periodontitis. This can include loosening of the teeth, tooth loss, and severe infections related to the gum and soft tissue. Other possibilities include an increased risk of heart disease.

There are several symptoms related to the development of the disease. At first, inflammation may be present. Patients suffering from the disease may also develop an abscess, a pocket of pus and infection, on the surface of the gums. At this point, pain may be severe and dental treatment is necessary to relieve pain and treat the infection.

Treatment options include cleaning out the infection and preventing future problems. This can include a period of antibiotics to clear up an infection before a formal procedure is scheduled. Dentists usually extract the tooth or perform a root canal to get rid of the source of infection and prevent future problems. Pain medication may also be prescribed to alleviate the pain associated with the procedure.

Specific oral care measures can help prevent the development of the disease. This includes regular brushing, flossing, and the use of an antimicrobial mouthwash. Regular checkups and cleanings at the dentist are also important steps in preventing the development of periapical periodontitis.



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