About Periodontal Disease
A chronic illness caused by a bacterial infection of the tooth-supporting structures of the mouth, periodontal disease is a problem that should be taken seriously. As the disease progresses, it can cause the loss of teeth. At its most progressed, it can lead to total tooth loss.
Periodontal disease occurs in stages, which is part of the reason your twice yearly visits to the dentist are so vital; if caught early, it is much easy to manage or even eliminate the disease. The first stage is gingivitis, which occurs when bacteria in dental plaque causes inflammation of the gums. This is caused by poor oral hygiene habits that allow the plaque to sit for long periods of time.
Without a visit to the dentist, it is possible for an individual to not notice gingivitis. There is no real pain associated with it and the primary symptom is bleeding when brushing. If caught at this stage, it is possible to reverse the disease through good oral hygiene and professional treatments. However, if it is not caught at this stage, it will progress to a point where treatment is much more difficult.
Periodontitis occurs when the bacteria infiltrate the gm line and begin to attack the gums and bone. This releases toxins into the surrounding tissues which the body responds to with inflammation. This is both painful and problematic as the body will then start to attack itself, causing the gums and bone to break down. This process will leave open pockets behind that become easily, and painfully, infected. The further it progresses, the larger the pockets become, destroying the tooth-supporting structures.
The symptoms tend to be fairly mild until the disease reaches its advanced stages, which means that many ignore it until it is too late. Some symptoms to watch for are:
- Gums that are red and swollen instead of pink and healthy.
- Tenderness of the gums or other tissues of the mouth.
- Gums that bleed.
- Teeth that look longer than before—a sign that your gums are receding.
- Teeth that feel loose.
- Pus around the gum line or between teeth.
- Sores inside of the mouth.
- Chronic bad breath that you cannot seem to treat.
- Change in the alignment of your bite or the fit of your dentures.
The most common cause of periodontal disease is poor oral hygiene leading to the overgrowth of plaque. Other causes are as follows:
- Chewing tobacco
- Certain medications
- Certain systemic diseases
If you think you might have periodontal disease, consider taking this self-assessment test from the American Academy of Periodontology: http://service.previser.com/aap/default.aspx