eriodontal disease is a bacterial infection that damages the periodontal tissues (the tissues around the tooth: gums, bone, ligaments) It is classified into two entities, gingivitis and periodontitis, depending on the severity of the disease.
The first form (both in time sequel and development) is gingivitis .
Gingivitis is a reversible disease, which means that with the proper treatment, the periodontal tissues can return to their normal healthy condition.
In periodontitis, irreversible damages have occured to the periodontal tissues. Even after the treatment of periodontitis, the tissues cannot return to their initial healthy condition.
What causes periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria that accumulate on the tooth surfaces and form the dental microbial plaque. Dental plaque is like a film attached to the tooth surface. It differs from the white smear that shows on the teeth after a meal, which is just food that piles up. White smear can be rinsed off, dental plaque has to be removed mechanically (brushed off).
What exactly is gingivitis?
Gingivitis is a reversible inflamation of the tissues, which is caused by the accumulation of the dental plaque on the gums and teeth. When oral hygiene is incorrect, plaque matures on the gingival sulcus (the gap between the tooth and the gums) and causes inflammation. This causes the gums to enlarge, become more red and bleed more easily. If plaque isn't removed for a few days, it is transformed to calculus (tartar), which is attached to the tooth and can only be removed by the dentist with the proper instruments.
What is periodontitis?
Periodontitis is a bacterial infection, where the periodontal tissues have sustained irreversible damages. Due to the infection, the gingival sulcus has deepened (and has formed the periodontal pocket), periodontal tissues have started to resorb, exposing the root and reducing the tooth support (leading finally to the tooth been extracting because it is loose). This procedure is very slow and isn't usually noticed, unless there are other symptoms, such as pain, swelling, bad breath, abscesses and bleeding. The course of periodontitis depends on many factors, with the most important being the ability to efficiently remove dental plaque. There are also some contributing factors that accelerate the destruction. Such factors are smoking, pregnancy, genetic predisposition and certain diseases like diabetes.
How does smoking affect the gums?
Smoking is the main causative factor for many serious diseases, such as heart disease and many forms of cancer (among them and oral cancer). As far as periodontal disease is concerned, research has shown that smoking decreases the tissue defences and inhibits the healing. Therefore, smoking makes periodontal tissues more susceptible to bacterial destruction, which speeds up the development of periodontitis.
Smokers, apart from decreased healing capacity and defence capability, are found to form calculus and black stains easier, while suffer more frequently from halitosis (bad breath).
How does pregnancy affect the gums
During pregnancy, there is an increased production of hormones, which make periodontal tissues more susceptible to bacterial infection. In conjuction with the usually less than ideal oral hygiene that the pregnant woman practises, the inflamation is more evident, the gums appear more swollen and red, with frequent (and many times spontaneous bleeding).
Therefore, especially during pregnancy, oral hygiene should be thorough and meticulous. The dentist should be consulted from the beginning of the pregnancy, in order for the woman to cope with the special condition that affect her oral health as well.
How can I protect my gums from periodontal disease?
Prevention is more preferable and much easier than the treatment. What one should do in order to prevent periodontal disease is thorough removal of the causative factor, dental plaque. This means brushing with a fluoride toothpaste (at least twice daily, after the main meals) and flossing (once a day).