Periodontal disease or gum disease is a chronic bacterial infection of the gums and the supporting bone around the teeth. It is a major cause of tooth loss in adults however; as periodontal disease is often painless, you may not even know you have it.
Although most individuals suffer from gum inflammation from time to time, approximately 13 to 17% of the population appear to suffer from the more severe forms of the gum disease, which causes loss of supporting bone.
Gum disease has three stages of progression: gingivitis, periodontitis, and advanced periodontitis; the longer the disease has to advance, the more damage it causes. With advancements in detection and treatment, we can discover periodontal disease early and begin treatment before complicated issues arise.
What Causes Periodontal Disease?
The main cause of Gum disease is the formation of dental plaque, which forms a sticky film on the tooth surface. Plaque contains bacteria, which release toxins that can damage the gums. If allowed to accumulate, plaque causes inflammation of the surface of the gums known as ‘gingivitis’. This type of inflammation will resolve if the plaque is removed through cleaning of the teeth.
As the amount of plaque increases it can begin to mineralize and form tartar (calculus). Such hard deposits have a rough surface and allow more plaque formation and further damage to the gums. If plaque accumulates for a long time the changes it causes in the gums can lead to loss of bone support, a condition known as ‘Periodontitis’.
Not everyone is susceptible to periodontal disease. Individuals with gum disease have a low resistance to periodontal bacteria. This lower resistance can be attributed to one or more different risk factors, such as Age – Poor Oral Hygiene – Smoking – Stress – Pregnancy – Diabetes …
Common Signs of Gum Disease:
If you notice any of the above signs or symptoms of periodontal disease, please contact us for a periodontal evaluation. Since pain is a rare symptom, it is possible to be unaware of any of the above changes. Your gums may look and feel normal but periodontal disease can still be present.
- Red, tender, and swollen gums that bleed during brushing or flossing
- Constant bad breath or bad taste in your mouth
- Gum line receding , or gums are pulling away from teeth and forming pockets
- Changes in your bite or teeth alignment, loose teeth
It is advisable to attend your dentist regularly so that special assessment techniques to detect changes in the gums, sometimes including x-rays, can be carried out as part of your routine dental examination.
Gingivitis - Periodontitis?
Gingivitis (gum inflammation) usually precedes periodontitis . However, it is important to know that not all gingivitis progresses to periodontitis. In the early stage of gingivitis, bacteria in plaque build up, causing the gums to become inflamed and to easily bleed during tooth brushing. Although the gums may be irritated, the teeth are still firmly planted in their sockets. No irreversible bone or other tissue damage has occurred at this stage.
When gingivitis is left untreated, it can advance to periodontitis. In a person with periodontitis, the inner layer of the gum and bone pull away from the teeth and form pockets. These small spaces between teeth and gums collect debris and can become infected. The body's immune system fights the bacteria as the plaque spreads and grows below the gum line.
Toxins or poisons produced by the bacteria in plaque start to break down the bone that hold teeth in place. As the disease progresses, the pockets deepen and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed leading to tooth loss
How to Prevent Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal inflammation is not inevitable. The development of gingivitis and periodontitis can be prevented by adopting thorough oral hygiene habits, alongside regular professional examinations and support.The basic elements of a good oral hygiene regime are:
- Cleaning the chewing surfaces and sides of the teeth twice daily, with a toothbrush (of an appropriate size and in good condition) and toothpaste.
- Cleaning the spaces between the teeth where the toothbrush bristles cannot reach, using either dental floss or an interdental brush, depending on the size of the space. This should be done once daily.
If, as a result of an inadequate cleaning technique, plaque deposits are left on the teeth, these will become mineralised and turn into hard deposits (tartar) that cannot be removed with a toothbrush. Your dentist and your hygienist will identify these deposits during your regular dental examination and remove them as part of a professional clean.