Periodontitis means “inflammation around the tooth” – it is a serious gum infection that damages the soft tissue and bone that supports the tooth. With periodontitis (gum disease), the alveolar bone around the teeth is slowly and progressively lost. Microorganisms, such as bacteria, stick to the surface of the tooth and multiply – an overactive immune system reacts with gum inflammation.
Untreated gum disease will eventually result in tooth loss, and may increase the risk of stroke, heart attack and other health problems. In most cases, periodontitis is preventable. It is usually caused by poor dental hygiene.
Here’s how gum disease develops and why professional cleanings are important:
- Dental plaque forms on teeth – this is a pale-yellow biofilm that develops naturally on teeth. If is formed by bacteria that try to attach themselves to the tooth’s smooth surface.
- Brushing teeth gets rid of plaque, but it soon builds up; within a day or so.
- If it is not removed, within two or three days it hardens into tartar. Tartar is much harder to remove than plaque. Another name for tartar is calculus. Getting rid of tartar requires a professional – you cannot do it yourself.
- Plaque can gradually and progressively damage teeth and surrounding tissue. At first, the patient may develop gingivitis – inflammation of the gum around the base of the teeth. Even though the gums are irritated and bothersome, the teeth are not loose. There is no irreversible damage to bone or surrounding tissue.
- Persistent gingivitis can result in pockets developing between the teeth and gums. These pockets fill up with bacteria.
- Bacterial toxins and our immune system’s response to infection start destroying the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place. Eventually the teeth start becoming loose, and can even fall out
Complications from Gum Disease:
The most common complication from periodontitis is the loss of teeth. However, patients with periodontitis are also at a higher risk of having respiratory problems, stroke, coronary artery disease, and low birth weight babies. Periodontitis can make it harder for patients with diabetes to control blood sugar. In addition, postmenopausal women with periodontal disease are more likely to develop breast cancer, according to research published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. Those with a history of smoking are particularly affected.
Gum disease is preventable by brushing, flossing and visiting your local friendly dentist at least twice a year. It is imperative that you get gum disease treated if you have it. It may not only save your teeth, but ultimately save your life!!!