Periodontal disease, which is also known as gum disease and periodontitis, is a progressive disease. If left untreated, it may result in tooth loss. Gum disease begins with the inflammation and irritation of the gingival tissues, which surround and support the teeth. The toxins found in plaque are the source of this inflammation. These toxins cause an ongoing bacterial infection.
The bacterial infection colonizes in the gingival tissue, and deep pockets form between the teeth and the gums. If treated promptly by a periodontist, the effects of mild inflammation (known as gingivitis) are completely reversible. However, if the bacterial infection progresses, periodontal disease begins to destroy the gums and the underlying jawbone, promoting tooth loss. In some cases, the bacteria from this infection can travel to other areas of the body via the bloodstream.
Common Causes of Gum Disease
There are genetic and environmental factors involved in the onset of gum disease. In many cases, you can significantly lower the risk of developing periodontitis by taking preventative measures.
Here are some of the most common causes of gum disease:
Poor Dental Hygiene
Preventing dental disease starts at home with good oral hygiene and a balanced diet. Prevention also includes regular dental visits, which include exams, cleanings, and X-rays. A combination of excellent home care and professional dental care will preserve the natural dentition and support of bony structures. When bacteria and calculus (tartar) are not removed, bacterial toxins can affect the gums and bone around the teeth. They can cause gingivitis or periodontitis, which ultimately leads to tooth loss.
Research has indicated that smoking and tobacco use are some of the most significant factors in the development and progression of gum disease. In addition to smokers experiencing a slower recovery and healing rate, smokers are far more likely to suffer from calculus (tartar) buildup on teeth, deep pockets in the gingival tissue, and significant bone loss.
Despite practicing rigorous oral hygiene routines, as much as 30 percent of the population may have a strong genetic predisposition to gum disease. These individuals are six times more likely to develop periodontal disease than individuals with no genetic predisposition. Genetic tests can determine susceptibility, and early intervention can keep the oral cavity healthy.
Pregnancy and Menopause
During pregnancy, regular brushing and flossing are critical. Hormonal changes experienced by the body can cause the gum tissue to become more sensitive, rendering them more susceptible to gum disease.
Chronic Stress and Poor Diet
Stress lowers the ability of the immune system to fight off disease, which means bacterial infection can beat the body’s defense system. Poor diet or malnutrition can also lower the body’s ability to fight periodontal infections, as well as negatively affecting the health of the gums.
Diabetes and Underlying Medical Issues
Many medical conditions can intensify or accelerate the onset and progression of gum disease, including respiratory disease, heart disease, arthritis, and osteoporosis. Diabetes hinders the body’s ability to utilize insulin, which makes the bacterial infection in the gums more difficult to control and cure.
The clenching or grinding of teeth can significantly damage the supporting tissue surrounding the teeth. Grinding one’s teeth is usually associated with a “bad bite,” or the misalignment of the teeth. When an individual is suffering from gum disease, the additional destruction of gingival tissue due to grinding can accelerate the progression of the disease.
Many drugs, including oral contraceptive pills, heart medicines, antidepressants, and steroids, affect the overall condition of teeth and gums, making them more susceptible to gum disease. Steroid use promotes gingival overgrowth, which makes swelling more commonplace and allows bacteria to colonize more readily in the gum tissue.
Treatment of Gum Disease
Periodontists specialize in the treatment of gum disease and the placement of dental implants. A periodontist can perform effective cleaning procedures in deep pockets, such as scaling and root planing. They can also prescribe antibiotic and antifungal medications to treat infection and halt the progression of the disease.
In the case of tooth loss, the periodontist can perform tissue grafts to promote natural tissue regeneration. They also can insert dental implants if a tooth or several teeth are missing. Where gum recession causes a toothy-looking smile, the periodontist can recontour the gingival tissue to create an even and aesthetically pleasing appearance.
Preventing Periodontal Disease
Preventing periodontal disease is critical to preserving the natural dentition. Addressing the causes of gum disease and discussing them with your dentist will help prevent its onset, progression, and recurrence.
It is important to keep regularly scheduled appointments with your dentist in Scarborough if you are serious about preventing gum disease. Your dentist will clean the teeth, removing bacteria and plaque that lead to gum disease.
The dentist in Scarborough will also look for signs of gum disease. Early detection is the key to treating gum disease. The earlier the disease is identified, the better the outcome.
If you have any questions or concerns about the causes or treatments pertaining to gum disease, please ask your dentist.