Periodontal disease includes conditions of the gums and supporting bone, like gingivitis and periodontal abscesses. Periodontitis, as a severe manifestation of periodontal disease, can result in the loss of bone around the teeth and therefore loss of teeth.
The Causes of Periodontal Disease
The human mouth is full of bacteria that create plaque on the teeth. Plaque can be removed with regular brushing and flossing, but it may be impossible to remove all plaque from the teeth. If plaque is not removed, the bacteria in it produce chemicals that can cause inflammation of the gum tissue. Also plaque can harden and become tartar that harbors bacteria further irritating the gums. A professional cleaning is necessary to remove tartar.
Types of Periodontal Disease
There are many stages of gum disease, but two of the most common are gingivitis and periodontitis.
Gingivitis causes swelling, tenderness, and bleeding of the gums. It is the first stage of gum disease. Gingivitis does not cause a loss of tissue or bone. Gingivitis can often be fixed with an improvement in oral hygiene.
Periodontitis is an advanced stage of gum disease that affects the periodontium (tissue surrounding the teeth). Due to inflammation, it causes the deterioration of the gum and bone, gums become loose and separate from the teeth. The spaces that are formed (gum pockets) become infected. As the condition advances, it can cause a major loss of bone, which can result in loose or lost teeth.
Risk Factors for Gum Disease
Although poor oral hygiene is generally the largest cause of periodontal disease, certain behaviors and conditions can increase an individual’s likelihood of getting the disease.
- Smoking is one of the biggest risk factors for gum disease. People who smoke are more likely to develop gum disease. Smoking can also decrease the odds of successful treatment.
- Diabetes causes individuals to have a higher risk of developing gum disease as it makes the body more prone to infections.
- Certain medications can reduce the amount of saliva that is produced. An inadequate amount of saliva in the mouth can increase the risk of infection in the mouth.
- Diseases that weaken the immune system, such as AIDS, and their treatments can have a negative effect on the gums.
- Stress can cause the body to produce hormones that can increase the body’s susceptibility to infections.
Treatments for Periodontal Disease
The type of treatment that is used to manage gum disease depends on the severity of the disease. An evaluation is done by a periodontist (specialist in diagnosing, preventing and treating gum disease).
Individuals who suffer from gum disease will generally be advised to improve their oral hygiene. Special toothpastes and oral rinses may also be recommended.
Periodontists will generally use deep-cleaning methods like scaling or root planing to remove tartar and plaque from the teeth and below the gum line. These procedures smooth the teeth and help remove the bacteria, which can allow the gums to heal.
Surgery may be necessary if there are deep pockets in the mouth or extensive bone loss.