What is Aggressive Periodontitis?

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  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2019
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Aggressive periodontitis is a type of periodontal disease that usually differs greatly from chronic periodontitis. Chronic periodontitis is also considered a progressive disease, but it usually progresses slowly, and typically occurs in older people who suffer from chronic illness and practice poor dental hygiene. Aggressive periodontitis is considered to progress far more quickly than chronic periodontitis, and can cause bone and tooth loss. Though it can be found in less than two percent of the general population, it's often found in younger patients, even children, and the disease usually affects the first molars more than other teeth. Experts don't yet understand what causes aggressive periodontitis, but they believe it may be linked to the bacterium Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans (Aa).

Periodontitis generally causes inflammation of the gums, loss of bone in the jaw, and accumulation of tartar deposits both above and below the gum line. Eventually, tooth loss can occur. Aggressive periodontitis usually causes damage to the teeth and jaw three or four times faster than does chronic periodontitis. This disease is often localized, affecting only a few teeth.

Chronic periodontitis, on the other hand, usually affects all the adult teeth. People tend to get aggressive periodontitis at a younger age. Even children have been known to develop this disease, though the typical patient is an adult younger than 35 at the time symptoms appear.


Gum inflammation associated with aggressive periodontitis can be severe. Symptoms can vary widely, however, from one person to the next. As many as six teeth may be affected by the disease progression.

Some experts believe that aggressive periodontitis is caused by the bacterium Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans. Aa is considered a vary common oral bacteria, as it's found in the mouths of up to 20 percent of the population. Experts don't yet understand why, if Aa is so common, aggressive periodontitis is so rare. Aa in most peoples' mouths do the same thing that other types of bacteria typically do in the mouth, which is to form the filmy tooth coating known as plaque. While plaque can contribute to tooth decay and chronic periodontitis, its role in contributing to aggressive periodontitis is not yet understood.

Some experts believe that other factors may be involved in the development of aggressive periodontitis include herpesvirus infection and Epstein-Barr virus infection. Poor oral hygiene and smoking may play a role. Some believe that psychological factors can come into play. There also seems to be a genetic component to this illness, as people who have a first-degree relative with the disease may have as much as a 50 percent chance of developing it themselves.


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