What is periodontal disease?
The word periodontal means “around the tooth”. Healthy gum tissue fits like a cuff around each tooth. There the gum line meets the tooth, it forms a slight v-shape crevice called a sulcus. In healthy teeth, this space is usually three millimeters or less.
Periodontal diseases are infections that affect the tissues and bone that support teeth. As the tissues are damaged, the sulcus develops into a pocket that is greater than three millimeters. Generally, the more severe the disease, the greater the pocket depth and bone loss. The enlarged pockets allow harmful bacteria to grow and make it difficult to practice effective oral hygiene. Left untreated, periodontal diseases may eventually lead to tooth loss.
How would I know if I had periodontal disease?
It’s possible to have periodontal disease without apparent symptons. That’s why regualr dental checkups
and periodontal examinations are very important.
Several warning signs can signal a problem. If you notice any of the following, see your dentist:
• Gums that bleed easily
• Red, swollen, or tender gums
• Gums that have pulled away from your teeth
• Persistent bad breath
• Pus between the teeth and gums
• Loose or separating teeth
• A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
• A change in the fit of partial dentures
What causes periodontal diseases?
The mouth is filled with countless bacteria. Periodontal disease begins when certain bacteria in plaque produce toxins and enzymes that irritate the gums and cause inflammation. The resulting inflammation, which may be painless, can damage the attachment of the gums and bone to the teeth.
Plaque that is not removed regularly can harden into rough porous deposits called calculus, or tartar. Tartar is not the main cause of periodontal diseases, but the pores in tartar hold bacteria and toxins, which are impossible to remove even with regular brushing. Once the hardened tartar forms, it can only be removed when teeth are cleaned at the dental office.
What are periodontal-systemic disease interrelationships?
Tooth loss is not the only potential problem posed by periodontal diseases. Research suggests that there may be a link between periodontal diseases and other health concerns such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, bacterial pneumonia, and increased risk during pregnancy. Researchers are trying to determine if bacteria and inflammation associated wth periodontal diseases play a role in affecting these systemic diseases and conditions.