Periodontal (Gum) Disease

Periodontal (Gum) Disease can cause inflammation, tooth loss, and bone damage. The disease begins when a film called plaque accumulates on the teeth and calcium from the saliva hardens this plaque (calcified plaque is called calculus or tartar).  This plaque and/or calculus contains certain types of bacteria (germs) that try to damage the gum tissue.  The body fights this bacterial invasion with an inflammatory attack, sending white blood cells to the area to destroy the bacteria.  This inflammation causes the tissue to bleed easily when brushing or flossing.  If this inflammation persists in the gums, it can lead to destroying the ligament and bone around the teeth thus creating an infection.

The mildest form of periodontal disease is gingivitis.  When an individual has gingivitis, the gums are red, swollen, and bleed easily.  People with gingivitis usually experience little to no discomfort and is often caused by inadequate oral hygiene.  Gingivitis is reversible with professional care and good oral hygiene at home.

Untreated gingivitis can lead to periodontitis when the plaque spreads and grows below the gum line.  The toxins produced by the bacteria in plaque cause a chronic inflammatory response in which the ligament and bone supporting the teeth are destroyed and broken down.  Thus causing the gum to separate from the teeth creating periodontal pockets (space between the tooth and gum).  As the periodontal disease progresses, the pockets deepen and more ligament and bone are destroyed around the teeth.  This destructive process is associated with very little or no discomfort and can lead to teeth loosening and needing to be removed.

SIGNS OF PERIODONTAL DISEASE

  • Gums that are red and swollen
  • Bleeding while brushing, flossing, or eating food
  • Gums that seem to have pulled away from the teeth
  • Bad breath or halitosis
  • Pus between your teeth and gums
  • Teeth that seem to be loose or moving away from one another
  • Change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • Change in the way your partial denture or implant supported restorations fit
  • Or no symptoms at all

RISK FACTORS OF PERIODONTAL DISEASE

POOR ORAL HYGIENE – the main cause of periodontal disease is plaque
AGE – older people have a higher rate of periodontal disease.  Seventy percent of Americans age 65 and over have periodontitis.
SMOKING/TOBACCO USE – users are at increased risk (up to 8 times) for development and progression of periodontal disease.
GENETICS – research has indicated that some people may be genetically susceptible to periodontal disease.  Beware if your mother or father has had periodontal disease.
STRESS – makes it more difficult for the body to fight off infections like periodontal disease.
MEDICATIONS – there are a few medications that have a side effect of gingival (gum) enlargement.  These are Calcium Channel Blockers (used for high blood pressure), Dilantin (used to prevent seizures), and Cyclosporine (used to prevent rejection of organ transplants).
CLENCHING OR GRINDING TEETH – puts excess force on the tissues that support the teeth and could increase the rate of destruction.
SYSTEMIC DISEASES – diseases that interfere with the body’s inflammatory system may worsen the health of the gums and vice versa.  These diseases include but not limited to Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
POOR NUTRITION – a diet in low nutrition can lesson the body’s ability to fight off infections like periodontal disease.
OBESITY – research has shown that an obese individual may have an increase  risk for periodontal disease.

HOW TO PREVENT PERIODONDAL DISEASE

  1. Brush your teeth at least 2 times a day.  Brushing helps remove food debris and plaque trapped on your teeth and gums.  Don’t forget to brush your tongue.
  2. Flossing at least once per day helps remove food particles and plaque between your teeth and along your gum line that your tooth brush cannot reach.  
  3. Swishing with mouth wash can also help reduce plaque.
  4. Oral irrigations make great use of water to remove food debris and plaque around your teeth and gums.  Oral irrigations should be used as a supplement to normal brushing and flossing.
  5. Knowing and reducing your risk factors will help lower your chances of developing periodontal disease.
  6. See a Periodontist.  Identifying symptoms of periodontal disease early is the key to protecting the health of your teeth and gums.

LINK BETWEEN PERIODONTAL DISEASE AND SYSTEMIC HEALTH

Periodontal disease is associated with several other diseases of the body due to the inflammatory response it creates.  Research has shown that inflammation may be responsible for the connection with Diabetes, Heart Disease, Preterm Low Birth Weight Babies, Osteoporosis, Respiratory Disease, and cancer.