Also known as periodontal disease or gum disease, periodontitis is a bacterial infection of the gums and bone that support the teeth. Plaque buildup due to insufficient dental hygiene habits is the most common cause of gum disease. As the plaque builds up, the gums will begin to recede away from the teeth, creating pockets ripe for bacterial growth. As the body’s immune system fights the bacteria, the bone surrounding the teeth can wear down. Once the bone has regressed to the point that it can no longer support the teeth attached to it, the tooth will become loose or fall out completely.
Periodontitis is an advanced gum disease which begins as gingivitis. As with gingivitis, the most obvious symptoms are gums which are red and inflamed, gums which bleed during brushing and flossing, and a receded gum line. If left untreated, periodontitis can lead to severe gum recession, bone loss, and tooth loss. Unfortunately, periodontal-related problems are often discovered after they have persisted for an extended period of time, so it is important to always stay up-to-date with your periodic dental exams.
Proper oral hygiene, daily dental care and regular dental checkups will minimize the risk of gum disease. Gum disease ranges from mild (gingivitis) to moderate and severe (periodontitis). Mild gum disease in the form of Gingivitis is perfectly reversible through rigorous home care and periodic dental visits. However, if the gum disease has progressed to the the point of bone and tooth loss, other means of treatment may be necessary to restore your teeth to their proper form, such as with implants, dentures, and other prosthetics. The best means of maintaining the integrity of your gums and teeth is through prevention methods, and getting into good dental hygiene habits early on in life.
Common problems associated with gum disease:
- “Long” teeth (receding gum lines expose the root portions of your teeth)
- Discolored or deteriorating tooth structure
- Gum depressions (holes in between the teeth in the gum tissue)
- Infected gum line (discoloration or inflammation of the gum tissue)
- Tooth loss or tooth movement
- Bleeding gums, especially during brushing and flossing
The effects of gum disease can be damaging to your dental health. However, through proper preventive care and oral hygiene, you can avoid problems associated with gum disease.