Periodontal Health and Disease

The word periodontal literally means "around the tooth." The periodontal tissues include the gum, the aveolar bone and the ligaments that hold the tooth in the socket.

The healthy periodontal condition is characterized by firm, pink gums that do not bleed when brushed or flossed. There should be no mobility in the teeth. Healthy individuals will have clean breath and a happy, confident smile.

Periodontal disease is caused by bacterial plaque. Daily home care, including proper brushing and flossing is a must to prevent plaque buildup. If plaque is not removed it will turn into a hard substance called calculus. If calculus develops below the gumline, you will be at increased risk for periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease is the major cause of about 70 percent of adult tooth loss, affecting three out of four persons at some point in life.

Stages of Periodontal Disease

Healthy Gums
  • Healthy Gums are firm and pink.
  • Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease. The gums are red, swollen, and bleed easily.
  • Mild Periodontitiscauses the gums to begin to separate from the teeth, forming pockets which will fill with plaque.
  • Moderate Periodontitis is characterized by deeper pockets, as more bone and tissue arelost.
  • Severe Periodontitis causes the teeth to become loose, because a large amount of the bone and tissue have been lost.

The amount of damage to your gums and bone depends upon the complex interaction of the following factors:

  • Genetics A family history of tooth loss may mean you are genetically predisposed to develop severe forms of periodontal disease. There is a new genetic test available to aid us in your diagnosis.
  • Smoking Tobacco users are more likely to get periodontal disease and suffer from the more severe forms.
  • Systemic Diseases Diseases, such as diabetes and horminal imbalances, can interfere with the body's immune system, and will worsen the periodontal disease.
  • Poor Nutrition and Stress These factors affect the body's ability to fight infection and also heal properly following treatment.
  • Pregnancy and Puberty Hormonal changes can cause the gums to bleed easily and become red and tender. Pre-existing periodontal diseases can become more severe.
  • Medications Some drugs, such as oral contraceptives, anti-depressants and certain heart medications can affect your oral health.

Toxins produced by the bacteria in the plaque can interact with your immune system. This will cause the destruction of the bone and gum tissue which support the teeth. If periodontal disease is not treated, the teeth will loosen and eventually need to be removed. Periodontal disease may affect one or all of your teeth.

Warning Signs

The following signs may give a clue to having gum disease. If you have any of them, contact your dentist right away.

  • Bad breath or bad taste
  • Bleeding gums
  • Bleeding when you brush
  • Loose teeth
  • Red, swollen, or tender gums
  • Gums that have pulled away from your teeth
  • Pus in-between your teeth and gums when you press down on the gums
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite down
  • Any changes in the fit of your partial dentures

It is possible not to have these warning signs and still have gum disease. Also, most people do not feel pain with the disease. This is why regular checkups are important.

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