What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal treatment is necessary when various conditions affect the health of your gums and the regions of your jaw bone that hold your teeth in place. Retaining your teeth is directly dependent on proper periodontal care and maintenance. Healthy gums enhance the appearance of your teeth, like a frame around a beautiful painting. When your gums become unhealthy, they can either recede, become swollen and red, or develop pockets around the tooth. In later stages, the supporting bone is destroyed and your teeth will shift, loosen, or fall out. These changes not only affect your ability to chew and speak, they also spoil your smile.
Periodontal diseases are ongoing infections of the gums that gradually destroy the support of your natural teeth. Periodontal disease affects one or more of the periodontal tissues: alveolar bone, periodontal ligament, cementum, or gingiva. While there are many diseases which affect the tooth-supporting structures, plaque-induced inflammatory lesions make up the majority of periodontal issues, and are divided into two categories: gingivitis and periodontitis. While gingivitis, the less serious of the diseases, may never progress into periodontitis, it always precedes periodontitis.
Dental plaque is the primary cause of gingivitis in most cases. Plaque is a sticky colorless film, composed primarily of food particles and various types of bacteria, which adhere to your teeth at and below the gum line. Plaque constantly forms on your teeth, even minutes after cleaning. The bacteria found in initial plaque formations, if not removed, will continue to reproduce, and produce toxins or poisons that irritate the gums. Gums may become inflamed, red, swollen, and bleed easily. If this irritation is prolonged, we see not only a quantitative change (population explosion!), but also a qualitative change, with more virulent species entering the scene. The development of periodontitis is characterized by the destruction of the gum attachment to the tooth root causing pockets (spaces) to form.
If daily brushing and flossing is neglected, plaque can also harden into a rough, porous substance known as calculus (or tartar). This can occur both above and below the gum line. This roughened surface serves as a focal point for inflammation and facilitates plaque retention.
Again, if gingivitis progresses into periodontitis, the attachment of the supporting gum and bone that hold the teeth in place is destroyed. The progressive loss of bone can lead to loosening, migration and subsequent loss of teeth.
We mentioned earlier that plaque is the primary cause of the majority of periodontal diseases. So failure to observe appropriate daily oral hygiene and regular dental cleanings can increase the odds of seeing periodontal problems. The bacterial toxins released into the gums are not only destructive in and of themselves; they cacan initiate inflammation generated by your body’s immune system. Some aspects of an inflammatory response can cause periodontal destruction as well. Some patients have genetic modifications that exacerbate this destruction. Other factors that can contribute in a negative way include smoking and anything that may compromise your immune system, such as uncontrolled diabetes.
Periodontal disease is dangerous in that it is often painless and symptom-free. 80% of Americans will be afflicted with some degree of periodontal disease by age 45. 4 out of 5 of these patients with the disease are unaware they have it. Therefore, it is important to maintain proper home oral care and regular dentist visits to reduce the risk of obtaining this disease.