Individuals who regularly visit a primary care provider (PCP) may not see a dentist, creating opportunities for PCPs to improve oral health. However, a lack of expertise among PCPs may limit their impact to improve public oral health. Using a non-systematic literature review, this article summarises the relevant literature about periodontitis. Periodontitis affects 10% to –15% of the world’s population. Caused by bacterial inflammation in gingival pockets, periodontal disease can destroy tissues surrounding the teeth. Factors linked to periodontal disease include diabetes, atherosclerosis and smoking. Good oral hygiene is important for both prevention and treatment. Mechanical removal of gingival irritants by scaling and root planing combined with adjunctive antimicrobial therapy are first-line treatment options. Surgery is indicated when healthy levels of gingival tissue are not attained from first-line treatments. By understanding the fundamentals of periodontitis the primary care provider can educate patients, promote healthy oral health behaviours and appropriately refer patients with signs and symptoms of periodontal disease.