Bacteria found in plaque produces toxins or poisons that irritate the gums, which may cause them to turn red, swell and bleed easily. If this irritation is prolonged, the gums separate from the teeth, causing pockets (spaces) to form. As periodontal diseases progress, the supporting gum tissue and bone that holds teeth in place deteriorate. If left untreated, this leads to tooth loss.
Preventing Gum Disease
The best way to prevent gum disease is effective daily brushing and flossing as well as regular professional examinations and cleanings. Unfortunately, even with the most diligent home dental care, people still can develop some form of periodontal disease. Once this disease starts, professional intervention is necessary to prevent its progress.
Other important factors affecting the health of your gums include:
- Clenching and grinding teeth
- Poor nutrition
Gum Disease (Periodontal Disease)
“My dentist told me that I have gum disease, but I am only 32, and I had my teeth cleaned just six months ago. How can this happen so fast?”
Great question, and one that includes all of the old assumptions that we told you about gum disease; that cleanings every six months was enough, that gum disease is chronic and progressive, and only happens as you age. All wrong! A wealth of new research has lead us to new understandings about gum disease:
- Gum disease is episodic in nature – for years, periodontal disease was described as a continuously progressing chronic disease that came with old age. New studies show that the loss of the attachment of gums and bone surrounding the teeth actually occurs on individual teeth or even at individual sites on each tooth. Each disease site shows short phases of attachment destruction interrupted by periods of quiescence (no disease activity). This is like any other infection; last week you were healthy, this week you have a cold, and next week you will be healthy again. The difference is that each bout of gum infection can leave you with permanent bone loss.
- Risk factors matter – risk factors such as smoking, poor metabolic control of diabetes, genetic predisposition to periodontal disease, poor stress-coping ability, and build-up of dental plaque and calculus (tarter, or hardened plaque) – and risk indicators such as osteoporosis, immunocompromised conditions, hormonal influences, pregnancy, translocation of Heliobactor pylori from gastric conditions, lower dietary levels of Vitamin C and Calcium, usage of drugs that produce or enhance dry-mouth (xerostomia), and intrafamily transfer of periodontal pathogens from one mouth to another – are all influences on the amount and on the rate of gum destruction.
- Earlier and more aggressive intervention is key to treatment success – In 1999, the Academy of Periodontology re-classified periodontal diseases. Stemming from this are new parameters of diagnosis that promote earlier interception of gum disease. What used to be early periodontal disease is now considered to be moderate-stage disease. What was moderate-disease is now considered to be advance-disease. Bottom line: earlier detection and treatment works – and we see it in our patients all the time.
- “Brushing your teeth may be good for your heart” – The case being made for correlations between periodontal disease and systemic conditions and diseases. Brushing your teeth may be good for your heart! Bacteria from dental gum infections have shown up in the sticky plaques lining diseased arteries. Also, the chemicals produced by the immune reaction in the gum pockets spill over into the blood stream and trigger the liver to make proteins that inflame arterial walls and clot blood. One such factor, C-reactive protein – a predictor of heart disease – is elevated in patients with periodontitis. If you are pregnant and you have gum disease, your risk of premature delivery is three to eight times that of women who do not have the disease – so get your teeth cleaned and keep your gums healthy. In a study of 366 pregnant women studied by the University of Alabama School of Dentistry, those who had their teeth cleaned and scaled reduced their odds of premature delivery by a whopping 84%!
The wellness model works best – The wellness model is characterized by a belief that health is a relative state that must be constantly maintained. It states that disease is a process with multiple causes; that the body is made of complex interrelated systems, what affects one, affects all. Prevention and early intervention (dentistry has been way ahead of the curve here) slows the progression of disease, prevents complications, and allows for more conservative and less costly treatment.