What Is Periodontal Disease?
Infection and inflammation that affect the tissues and supporting bone of your teeth are known as periodontal disease, some people call it gum disease or “pyorrhea.” Proper periodontal treatment and maintenance are crucial to retaining your teeth. Gum tissue can react by becoming inflamed and red, or receding and exposing root surfaces.
Symptoms are not always obvious and pain may not be a problem. If the periodontal disease progresses and is not treated, supporting bone may be lost causing teeth to shift, loosen and eventually fall out. When this happens, it affects eating, speaking, and your overall health. Appearance may be affected also.
Periodontal disease is an ongoing infection of the gums. If left untreated, periodontal disease can progress slowly in some patients and very quickly in others. Periodontal disease affects one or more of the periodontal tissues: alveolar bone, periodontal ligaments, cementum, or gingiva (gums). The initial stage of gum disease is called gingivitis and it is typically easier to treat, especially in the early stages. Gingivitis that is not treated will most generally progress to the more serious “periodontitis” if not treated.
The Main Cause of Periodontal Disease
The primary cause of periodontal disease is plaque, a sticky film that forms on our teeth every few hours throughout the day and night. The main components of plaque are food particles and bacteria. The bacteria in our mouths live off the food that we eat, especially carbohydrates. Bacteria is always present in our mouth and we are constantly forming plaque, even minutes after a cleaning. Bacteria colonize the plaque and produce toxins (by-products) that attack our gums. Some people form it more quickly than others.
Plaque that is not removed on a regular basis will harden and become “calculus” or what’s more commonly known as “tartar”. Plaque and tartar can occur both above and below the gum line. Our assistants and hygienists will instruct all of our patients in proper homecare techniques, that will help in removing plaque on a daily basis. Proper and complete removal of tartar can only be done in the dental office.
Other Causes of Gum Disease
While poor oral hygiene definitely contributes to the development of gum disease, there can be many other factors involved. Tobacco use, stress, a bad diet, genetics, and certain illnesses such as diabetes can all increase your risk of developing gum disease. And as we’ve explained before, even being pregnant makes you more susceptible!
We also don’t want our patients to think that if they are cavity-free they couldn’t possibly have gum disease. Gum disease is painless in its beginning stages and many people don’t know they have it. That’s why proper oral hygiene and twice-yearly visits to your dentist are essential for your oral health, even if you don’t have a cavity!
Periodontal Disease Symptoms
Because periodontal disease is often painless and doesn’t always present with symptoms, especially in the early stages, it is considered to be a dangerous disease. Most experts believe that at least 80% of Americans are affected by periodontal disease and 4 out of 5 are unaware they have the disease. People should be aware that periodontal disease affects adults primarily, but children and teens can also be affected, and juvenile periodontal disease is usually very aggressive!
Research shows that you can’t have a healthy body without a healthy mouth and periodontal disease generally runs in families.
Gum Disease Can Be Treated!
What we really want our patients to understand is that gum disease is reversible in its earliest stage: gingivitis! The earlier gingivitis is caught, the easier it is to eliminate it before it advances to full-blown periodontitis. Finding out you have gingivitis can be worrisome but here’s the good news: good oral hygiene habits and professional cleanings can, in most cases, rid you of gingivitis and stop gum disease in its tracks.