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What is periodontal disease?

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And how does gingivitis affect your health?

What is periodontal disease?

You can learn from our article the following:

  • What is periodontal disease?
  • What are the symptoms of periodontitis?
  • Who are more at risk of periodontal disease?
  • What factors lead to periodontitis?
  • How is periodontitis treated?

What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease (also known as periodontitis or gum disease) is one of the most common defects of the gum and its tissues. Many adults suffer from this inflammatory condition of the gum and bone support. Its initial stage is the inflammation of the gum at the necks of the teeth (called gingivitis). Gingivitis, when not dealt with in time, can lead to periodontitis and the result is a reduction in the tissues of the gum. With time, the teeth lose their supporting tissues so they loosen and eventually fall out or must be pulled out.

What are the symptoms of periodontitis?

The symptoms are easy to recognise. The gum becomes red and swollen because of the inflammation, and it bleeds on touching (e.g. when brushed). Decaying tissues cause bad breath. The inflamed gum recedes, thus exposing more of the tooth neck. On the long run the teeth get loosened, then they fall out. While inflammation, bad breath and the exposure of the teeth can be perceived thorough the senses, only a dental examination can establish the extent to which the tooth enamel, the gum tissues and the bone are damaged.
It should be highlighted that pain is not among the symptoms. Since this inflammation does not usually cause any pain, most people only visit their dentist when their gum is visibly damaged. However, this damage could be prevented or contained by regular dental exams, the removal of plaque and by correct oral hygiene.

Who are more at risk of periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease mostly occurs in the middle-aged or the elderly, while gingivitis is most frequent at younger age. Gingivitis in itself does not cause lasting damage, and if treated early and properly, further damage to the gum can be prevented. Learning and maintaining proper oral hygiene plays a key role in the preventing process.

What factors lead to periodontitis?

The basic reason are the bacteria present in the person. Depending on the physiology of the individual and on their oral hygiene, a film of bacterial plaque forms on the teeth. When the person neglects careful brushing and swishing, this plaque becomes denser and the bacteria it hosts starts attacking the enamel and inflaming the gum.
Besides poor hygiene, a number of other factors can play a role: brushing one’s teeth too hard or using the wrong movements with the toothbrush.
Smoking and diabetes also increase the risk of inflammation. In some cases genetic factors and hormonal changes must be considered as well.

How is periodontitis treated?

The first step is learning proper oral hygiene (brushing and flossing), since by neglecting this the patient undermines any kind of treatment performed by the dental expert.
The next step is removing the bacterial plaque. Depending on the type and amount of the plaque, repeated treatments may be needed, thus lengthening the healing process. Irregular fillings or poorly executed bridges or crows can host bacteria as well, so these must be repaired. In certain cases braces might be needed, since when teeth are too close to each other they are difficult to clean properly.
If the symptoms persist, a dental x-ray can reveal the damage in the gum and teeth. Based on the findings, special techniques can be used: cleaning and disinfecting the so called pockets (space between the teeth and the gum where bacteria can hide). These procedures take place under local anaesthesia. In more advances stages of the disease the roots must be cleaned as well. For this a surgery is performed, when your dental professional separates the gum from the teeth for a deeper cleaning procedure. Besides these techniques, plastic surgery interventions are used as well, but they take more time and can be more expensive, depending on the materials used. All types of treatment aim at strengthening the gum and preserving the teeth.

In summary, periodontal disease or periodontitis can be considered one of the most commonly present diseases with the adult population. Its commonness does not justify it not being taken seriously. Regular dental examinations and proper oral hygiene have a key role in preventing or containing this disease. The consequences of advanced periodontal disease can be treated with dental surgery, so the best idea is to contact your dentist no matter at which stage of periodontitis you find yourself.

What is periodontal disease?
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