Periodontal or gum disease is a pathological inflammatory condition of the gum and bone surrounding the teeth (periodontal tissues). It may range from simple gum inflammation to a more serious disease that may result in irreversible tissue loss. In the worst cases teeth are lost.
Gingivitis and periodontitis are the main examples of gum diseases. Gingivitis is the superficial inflammation of the gum due to the presence of plaque or tartar around the teeth. It is characterized by redness of the gum margins, swelling and bleeding on brushing. Periodontitis is a more serious condition because of the associated bone loss. It is characterized by the formation of pockets or spaces between the teeth and gums. This may progress and cause chronic periodontal destruction leading to loosening or loss of teeth.
Fortunately, gingivitis does not always develop into periodontitis. Progression of gum disease is influenced by a number of factors which include oral hygiene and genetic predisposition. One of the challenges for early detection of periodontal disease is its "silent" nature – the disease does not cause pain and can progress unnoticed. In its early stages, bleeding gums during tooth brushing may be the only sign; as the disease advances and the gums deteriorate, the bleeding may stop and there may be no further obvious signs until the teeth start to feel loose. In most cases, periodontal disease responds to treatment and although the destruction is largely irreversible its progression can be halted.
It is important to mention that several studies have shown that bacteria present in periodontal disease can get into the bloodstream and contribute to cardiovascular diseases. It has also been linked to other general health problems such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
There are several reasons that may lead to periodontal disease. The most important one is the buildup of plaque and tartar around teeth and gums but it can be aggravated by behavioral and environmental risk factors such as smoking, stress and poor diet. Plaque is soft and can easily be removed with the tooth brush but tartar is attached to the teeth and can only be removed by the dentist using special instruments.
Plaque control is the most important method of limiting periodontal disease and maintaining gingival health. While appropriate professional treatment is important, it must be stressed that the highest priority for plaque control is effective daily oral hygiene by the individual. To avoid problems in the future it is best for you to visit your dentist every 6 months. We can assess your gums and advise you on the most appropriate home care.