Periodontal means having to do with the tissues and structures around the teeth, such as the gums.
Gingivitis and Periodontitis
Periodontal disease means there is bacterial infection in these areas. The earliest and most common stage of gum disease is called gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), which is not obvious at first, but may spread over time. As gum disease progresses and starts to include more than just the gums, it is called periodontitis (inflammation of the periodontal tissues).
Periodontal (gum) disease can cause bleeding, pain, bad breath, exposed or infected tooth roots, the formation of pus, and even the loss of teeth through the loss of bone and other supporting tissues. Progressive bone loss can also alter the very appearance of your face, as the underlying bones change.
In addition to these effects on the mouth and jaw, periodontal disease has been linked to cardiovascular disease, oral cancer, diabetes, premature births, kidney disease, osteoarthritis, lung disease and Alzheimer’s Disease.
What causes Gum Disease?
Plaque, the soft thin film that sticks to teeth, is mainly made up of bacteria that colonize the teeth. If plaque is not removed often enough, it hardens into calculus (or tartar), which causes gum inflammation and bleeding. More seriously, the hard surface of calculus can damage the seal that is formed by gums to keep oral bacteria out of the bloodstream.
Preventing and Reversing Periodontal Disease
To prevent gum disease, prevent plaque and calculus from building up. Calculus (tartar) is the hard deposit that forms on teeth when dead bacteria found in accumulations of plaque become mineralized by the salts in saliva. Once these hard deposits form, they cannot be removed by brushing or flossing. One reason to get a dental cleaning twice a year is because your dental team has the tools and skills to remove calculus from your teeth.
Another good reason to keep up your dental appointments is to get the health of your gums checked. This is done by measuring the loss of tooth attachment, as compared to the surrounding periodontal tissues. A measurement of 4mm or greater is generally considered cause for concern and cause for a vigorous program to improve the health of the gums. In addition, x-rays may reveal a loss of bone.
To avoid the build-up of plaque and formation of calculus, keep up a regular oral hygiene routine of brushing and flossing, eat a diet of high nutritional value, and get your teeth cleaned professionally twice a year. Other measures that might help are avoiding the use of tobacco, minimizing stress in your life and avoiding teeth grinding and clenching. (See Dr. Ammari about a Night Guard.)