Periodontal disease

What is periodontal disease?

If your hands bleed after your wash them then you would go to the hospital right away. However, if your gums bleed after brushing your teeth or flossing your teeth, you may simply think that it is normal. In a study researchers from the National Institute of Health found out that half of the public over thirty years of age had bleeding gums.

Swollen gums, bleeding gums, or both are early signs of bacterial infection in your gums. If you do not do anything about this bacterial infection then it can spread. It will tear down the structures that are supporting your teeth in your jawbone. There will come a point where your teeth are so lose that they may have to be removed.

“Perio” means around while “dontal” refers to your teeth so when you say periodontal, you are referring to the structures that are around your teeth. These structures include your gums, alveolar bone, and your periodontal ligaments. During the earliest stages of periodontal disease, your gums can be infected. This early infection is normally known as gingivitis. If it becomes worse then all of your tissues may be involved.

For several years, scientists have been trying to find out what causes periodontal disease. As of today, the major suspects are the various types of bacteria found in dental plaque. Research today is also trying to find out the effect of gum infection on your overall health. For the past few years, gum disease has been linked to other health problems. It is a new and exciting field of research today and several questions are yet to be answered. The studies so far have been producing a wide array of conclusions and answers. More research must be done in order to come up with conclusive evidence. Today, researchers are trying to find out the relationship of gum disease with the following

  • atherosclerosis and heart disease - Gum disease can increase the risks of getting clogged arteries and heart disease. It can also make it worse. The connection is still unclear

  • stroke - Gum disease can increase your chances of getting a stroke due to blocked arteries

  • premature births - Women with gum disease during their pregnancy are more likely to deliver a baby before its expected delivery date. The infant is more likely to have a low birth weight as well. There is a study that shows that up to eighteen percent of premature babies and low birth weight babies could be linked to their mother’s gum disease

  • Diabetes - It can be more difficult for diabetic patients to control their blood sugar if they have periodontal gum disease.

  • Respiratory disease - Gum disease can cause lung infections and can even make existing lung conditions even worse. This can be attributed to bacteria from the mouth that reaches the lungs


What are some of the causes of periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria found in dental plaque. Plaque is a sticky substance that forms on your teeth after you brush it. In order to rid the mouth of bacteria, cells from your immune system release substances that inflame the gums, damage the gums, inflame periodontal ligaments, and damage the alveolar bone. This will result in bleeding gums and swollen gums which are signs of gingivitis, the early stage of periodontal disease. Your teeth may also become loose because of the damages from periodontal disease. When this happens, you are already experiencing severe periodontitis which is the advanced stage of gum disease.

If you practice good oral hygiene and visit your dentist on a regular basis then you could prevent the onset of periodontal gum disease. You should see your dentist twice a year if you can. If you already have gum disease then you should visit your dentist more often. If you brush your teeth twice a day and if you floss once a day then you can help in the prevention of periodontal gum disease. Plaque is removed from your teeth on a regular basis. In order to clean the parts of your teeth that are difficult to reach, you may need professional cleaning from your dentist or from your oral hygienist.

If you do not practice regular oral hygiene and if you do not visit your dentist regularly then plaque will build up on your teeth. Later on, this plaque build up will spread even below your gum line. Bacteria are protected there because your toothbrush can not reach it. If the plaque is not removed then it will continue to multiply and cause more serious infections.

When plaque builds up below the gum line, it will cause the gums to become inflamed. When the gums swell, they are forced to detach from the tooth. The process will form a space or a pocket in between your teeth and your gums. Bacteria can grow very quickly in these pockets and can cause further build-up of plaque.

If you do not treat this right away, your periodontal disease could spread to the periodontal ligaments and alveolar bone. These are the structures that support your teeth and they can be destroyed by periodontal gum disease.

One more reason to remove plaque right away is that over time, it hardens or calcifies and becomes calculus or tartar as it is more commonly known. More and more plaque will attach to the calculus because it is rougher than tooth enamel. Calculus is even rougher than cementum. Cementum is a layer that covers the root of the tooth. Layers of calculus and plaque tend to build up in a downward spiral manner.

If you use tartar control toothpaste, the formation of tartar on your teeth is slowed down although this can not remove the tartar that has already formed below your gum line.

What are some of the risks involved in periodontal gum disease and how can you prevent such disease?

The bacteria in your plaque is the main cause of periodontal disease but there are also some other causes that can contribute to such disease. Other diseases, medications, and oral habits can increase your chances of getting periodontal gum disease as well. They can make your periodontal gum disease worse especially if the infection has already begun. Here are some of the factors that can contribute to your periodontal gum disease:

  • genes. Research has shown that one third of the population may have a genetic trait that makes them more likely to have periodontal disease although your genes do not make periodontal gum disease unavoidable. With good oral hygiene, people with genes that are likely to get periodontal gum disease can actually avoid it altogether

  • smoking and the use of tobacco – smokers increase the risk of getting periodontal disease. The longer you smoke increases your risk of periodontal disease. The more you smoke increases your risk of getting periodontal disease as well. If you already have periodontal disease then smoking will make it even worse. Smoking can be a main cause of periodontal disease because smokers tend to collect more tartar on their teeth. They also develop deeper periodontal pockets once they have the disease. Smokers are more likely to lose more bone as their disease gets worse. Quitting your smoking habit plays a key role in bringing periodontal disease under control so consider it

  • misaligned teeth, crowded teeth, braces, and bridgework. Anything that will make it hard for you to brush your teeth or floss your teeth will contribute to periodontal disease because tartar and plaque will be harder to reach. With more tartar and plaque, you will be more susceptible to gum disease. If your teeth are hard to clean then you should ask your dentist for advice to clean it. For instance, you could use special tools and threading floss to clean around bridgework or clean through your braces. If you have overcrowded teeth or crooked teeth then your dentist may refer you to an orthodontist. Your smile will be straightened and you will have a lesser chance of getting periodontal disease

  • grinding, gritting, or clenching your teeth. These are some of the habits that aren’t necessarily a direct cause of periodontal disease but it could lead to more severe diseases if your gums are already inflamed. These are some of the habits that exert excess force on your teeth and can speed up the breakdown of periodontal ligament and bone. Most people can stop this habit by recognizing when it occurs and calming down. If these efforts are futile then you can ask your periodontist or dentist to create a custom guard appliance to reduce the pressure from the clenching and grinding of your teeth. Dentist usually refer to this appliance as an occlusal guard, mouth guard, bite guard, or night guard

  • stress. Stress could make periodontal gum disease worse and even more difficult to treat because it weakens your body’s immune system and eventually makes it harder for your body to fight of infection, particularly periodontal disease

  • fluctuating hormones. When your hormone levels are unstable and fluctuate often, changes can occur in your mouth. Puberty, pregnancy, and menopause can temporarily increase the likelihood of getting gum disease

  • medications. A lot of medicines can cause xerostomia or dry mouth. Some drugs that can cause this are usually those that address depression or high blood pressure. Without the protection of ample amounts of saliva, there will be lesser fluids to wash away bacteria. Plaque can form easily without saliva. Some other medicines cause enlargement of your gums. This will make it easier to for plaque to get trapped. Some of the medicines are:

    • phenytoin which is used to manage seizures
    • cyclosporine which is used to suppress the immune system
    • nifedipine or other calcium channel blockers that are used to treat chest pain or heart arrhythmias

  • diseases - People with certain diseases have a higher risk of getting periodontal disease. For instance, people with diabetes have a greater chance of getting periodontitis. Gum disease for diabetics could also be more severe. Rheumatoid arthritis and HIV are also known diseases that can increase your risks of getting periodontal disease. If you have one of these diseases then it can be more difficult to control periodontal disease. A good periodontist or dentist will be able to spot these problems and guide you on the correct path to good periodontal health.

  • poor nutrition - If you have poor nutrition then you will not have good health. You will have a poor immune system. Your gums and mouth will be unhealthy. If you are deficient in vitamin C then you can end up with scurvy which is a disease that causes your gums to bleed