Periodontal Disease

What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal treatment is necessary when various conditions affect the health of your gums and the regions of your jaw bone that hold your teeth in place. Retaining your teeth is directly dependent on proper periodontal care and maintenance. Healthy gums enhance the appearance of your teeth, like a frame around a painting. When your gums become unhealthy, they can either recede or become swollen and red. In later stages, the supporting bone is destroyed and your teeth can shift, loosen or fall out. These changes not only affect your ability to chew and speak but they can also spoil your smile.

Periodontal disease is an ongoing infection of the gums that gradually destroy the support of your natural teeth. Periodontal disease affects one or more of the periodontal tissues: alveolar bone, periodontal ligament, cementum, or gingiva. While there are many diseases that affect the tooth-supporting structures, plaque-induced inflammatory lesions make up the majority of the periodontal issues and are divided into two categories: gingivitis and periodontitis. While gingivitis is the less serious of the diseases, it may never progress into periodontitis, however, it always precedes periodontitis.

Dental plaque is the primary cause of gingivitis in genetically susceptible individuals. Plaque is a sticky colorless film, composed primarily of food particles and various types of bacteria that adhere to your teeth at and below the gum line. Plaque constantly forms on your teeth, even within minutes after cleaning. Bacteria found in plaque produce toxins that irritate the gums. Gums may become inflamed, red, or swollen and bleed easily. If this irritation is prolonged, the gums separate from the teeth causing pockets (spaces) to form. If daily brushing and flossing are neglected, plaque can also harden into a rough, porous substance known as calculus or tartar. This can occur both above and below the gum line.

If gingivitis progresses into periodontitis, the supporting gum tissue and bone that holds teeth in place deteriorates. The progressive loss of this bone, the alveolar, can lead to loosening and subsequent loss of teeth. Periodontitis is affected by bacteria that adhere to the tooth’s surface, along with an overly aggressive immune response to this bacteria.

Periodontal disease is dangerous in that it is often painless and symptomless. Over 80% of North Americans will be afflicted with periodontal disease by the age of 45, and 4 out of 5 patients with the disease are unaware that they have it. It is important to maintain proper oral home care and regular dental visits to reduce the risk of obtaining this disease.

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