Periodontal Disease 101 – What Causes it and What you can do to Avoid it

Jun 17, 2014 | Dental Information, Oral Health Care, Preventative Dental Care

Because of the range of issues that fall under the periodontal (gum) disease umbrella, the jury is still out on the total number of cases diagnosed each year, but it is common for adults to have some form of the disease at some point. There’s a range of periodontal diseases that starts at basic inflammation and moves up to very serious diseases that can cause damage to the tissues and bones that support the teeth. In the worst cases, teeth can be lost.

The cause of most periodontal disease is bacteria – and our mouths are full of it. Bacteria, combined with other particles and mucus, form the plaque that you brush and floss every day to keep at bay. However, plaque that is not removed will eventually harden to form ‘tartar’ that only your dentist or dental hygienist can remove using special cleaning instruments. Tartar that isn’t taken care of properly will eventually lead to…

Gingivitis – Inflammation and one of the First Progressions of Periodontal Disease
As plaque and tartar sit on your teeth, they become increasingly harmful to your health as the bacteria they contain can lead to ‘gingivitis’ – an inflammation of the gums that can be reversed with daily brushing and flossing and the regular care of a dental professional. Gingivitis typically does not lead to any loss of bone or tissue that provide tooth stability, but it still serious and should be treated properly because it will typically result in…

Periodontitis – The Next Step in the Periodontal Disease Progression
Gingivitis is a serious problem and when it’s not treated by a dental professional, it’s almost certain to advance and turn into periodontitis. Once this happens, gums begin to pull away from each tooth to create pockets that are ripe for bacterial infection. Toxins contained in the bacteria, along with our own immune system, begin to break down the bone and tissue that hold teeth in place leading to the eventual loss of teeth and tissues.

Signs and Risk Factors for Periodontal Disease

There are a number of risk factors associated with periodontal disease. The good news is that some of the risk factors can be avoided while others can be mitigated with appropriate medical and dental care. Some of the risk factors include:

Smoking. As if anybody needs another reason to quit smoking. It’s one of the biggest risk factors associated with periodontal disease and it lowers your chances for fighting the disease successfully.

Diabetes. People with diabetes typically have trouble fighting infections, including gum disease, making it even more important to practice good dental habits and seek the care of a dental and/or medical professional.

Medications. There is a huge number of medications (both over the counter and prescription) that reduce the production of saliva, which offers protective properties for the mouth.

Genetic pre-disposition. Some people are genetically predisposed to gum disease while others are not.

As for the signs of periodontal disease, be on the lookout for:

  • Bad breath that you can’t control with brushing, flossing and rinsing
  • Redness and/or swelling in the gums that won’t subside
  • Gums that are tender or bleed often
  • Pain when chewing
  • Loose teeth that are not the result of jarring or other injury
  • Teeth sensitivity
  • Gums that are receding or teeth that appear to be longer than usual

Treatment for Periodontal Disease – A Partnership Between You and Your Dentist

As your dental professional, our main goal is to reduce, and eventually eliminate, the infection. We have a number of tools, methods and medications at our disposal to do this, but none of them will be effective unless the patient maintains good care of their teeth at home. If a case is bad enough, however, surgery may be necessary.

The goal for everybody is to not have periodontal disease in the first place, so stick to good dental care practices at home and keep up with your regular dental examinations.