Periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss and other health problems if left untreated. Plaque is the main cause of gum disease but there are other factors that contribute as well. Research shows that some people may in fact be genetically predisposed to gum disease despite excellent oral care habits. Another factor is age. It is reported that nearly 70% of Americans 65 or older have periodontitis. Tobacco users are at a greater risk and takers of drugs such as anti-depressants, certain heart medications, and oral contraceptives have a proven link also. People who clench and grind their teeth put extra force on the supporting tissues of the teeth which can increase the speed of the destruction of periodontal tissue. Periodontal disease begins as an infection so poor nutrition can make matters worse and again research shows that obesity can increase the risk of this disease.
Warning Signs of Periodontal Disease
The following list contains warning signs of gum disease:
- Bleeding gums while brushing, flossing or eating hard foods
- Loose teeth
- Swollen or tender gums or areas of pain in the mouth
- Persistent bad breath
- Sores in the mouth
- Receding gums making the tooth appear longer than before
- Pus between your gums and teeth
- A change in the fit of dentures
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when biting
A Word on Gingivitis
The mildest form of periodontal disease is called gingivitis. At this stage, there is usually very little discomfort in the mouth. The most common cause of gingivitis is inadequate oral hygiene. With professional treatment, this stage of the disease can be reversed. Mostly with gingivitis, the gums will bleed easily and that would be a major symptom to look for. Diabetes or other systemic diseases and conditions, stress, puberty, hormonal fluctuations, pregnancy, substance abuse, and HIV infections can be contributing factors to having gingivitis.
When gingivitis is left untreated, it can lead to periodontitis. Plaque can spread below the gum line and the toxins produced in the bacteria in plaque will irritate the gums. This in turn creates a chronic inflammatory reaction in which the body turns on itself and starts to break down and destroy the tissues and bones that support the teeth. Pockets form as gums separate from the teeth and then infection sets in. If left alone, this will progress until the support system for the teeth is destroyed and they become loose and fall out or have to be removed.
Categories of Periodontal Disease
There are quite a few forms of periodontitis and four will be mentioned here.
- Aggressive Periodontitis occurs when there is rapid attachment loss and bone destruction. This can start in patients who are otherwise healthy.
- Chronic Periodontitis is the most common form of periodontitis where pockets have already formed and also the recession of the gum line is apparent. This is most usually seen in adults but not always. The attachment loss can be slow but also can have periods of rapid attachment loss.
- Periodontitis caused by a systemic disease often begins at a young age. Diabetes, heart disease, and respiratory diseases are some of the systemic conditions associated with this form of periodontitis.
- Necrotizing Periodontal Disease is an infection of the necrosis of the gingival tissue, the alveolar bone, and the periodontal ligament. This disease is usually observed in patients with the HIV infection, people with immunosupression disorders or those who suffer from malnutrition.
You can see from this article that it is extremely important to take good care of your teeth. Visit your dentist twice a year or more if you show signs of gum disease. The earlier it is caught, the sooner appropriate treatment can be addressed.