Periodontitis or pyorrhea is a set of inflammatory diseases affecting the periodontium, i.e., the tissues that surround and support the teeth. It involves progressive loss of the alveolar bone around the teeth, and if left untreated, can lead to the loosening and subsequent loss of teeth.
Periodontitis is caused by microorganisms that adhere to and grow on the tooth's surfaces, along with an over-aggressive immune response against these microorganisms. A diagnosis of periodontitis is established by inspecting the soft gum tissues around the teeth with a probe (i.e., a clinical examination) and by evaluating the patient's X-ray films (i.e. a radiographic examination), to determine the amount of bone loss around the teeth. Specialists in the treatment of periodontitis are periodontists; their field is known as "periodontology" or "periodontics".