Gum disease or periodontal disease if left untreated or ignored can become a severe issue. Periodontal disease is seen most commonly as simple gum inflammation but can become a serious disease that results in major damage to the soft tissue and bone that support your teeth. In the worst cases scenarios, teeth are lost and you become more susceptible to other illnesses.
How you care for your teeth will determine if your gum disease is stopped, slowed, or gets worse.
Periodontal disease is gum disease. Periodontal (gum) disease is an infection of the gums that starts out as plaque and forms tartar. As tartar builds up, it harbors bacteria that attacks the soft tissue around your gums. Left untreated, gingivitis becomes the first stage of periodontal disease. The second stage is periodontitis, which ultimately destroys the tissue surrounding your teeth and the bone that supports your teeth in place. This disease advances silently, often without pain but is essential to treat in order to have healthy dentition for a lifetime.
Bacteria. Your mouth is full of bacteria. A sticky, colorless plaque forms on your teeth from the bacteria, mucus and other particles in your mouth. As plaque builds up it hardens and forms tartar. The longer plaque and tartar remain on your teeth, the more harmful they become.
The bacteria first starts to cause inflammation of the gums. This is called gingivitis. The gums become red, swollen and can bleed easily. Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that can usually be reversed with daily brushing and flossing and regular cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist. This form of gum disease does not include any loss of bone and tissue that hold teeth in place.
When gingivitis is not treated, it can advance to periodontitis, (which means “inflammation around the tooth”). Gums begin to pull away from the teeth and form spaces called pockets. These pockets can easily become infected. The body’s natural defense system will fight the bacteria as the plaque spreads and grows below the gum line. Bacterial toxins and the body’s natural response to infection start to break down the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place. If not treated, the bones, gums, and tissue that support the teeth are destroyed. The teeth may eventually become loose and have to be removed.
Note, brushing and flossing helps get rid of plaque, however, only a professional cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist can remove tartar. It is highly recommended to have regular cleanings for this cause.
Treatments of gum disease include deep cleaning (Scaling and Root Planing), medications and/or referral to a periodontist for more advanced procedures. Some of these advanced procedures involve surgical treatment including flap surgery or bone and tissue grafting.
There are numerous studies that suggest periodontal disease is associated with other systemic health conditions. When periodontal disease is present, your entire immune system is weakened and the condition is linked with conditions like stroke, heart disease, diabetes and an increased risk for pre-mature birth for pregnant women.
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