Periodontal disease is a disease of the gums and bone which support the teeth. It affects, to one degree or another, a vast majority of the adult population in the United States. The beginning of the disease manifests itself as an inflammation of the gums known as gingivitis. If left untreated, the disease may progress to periodontitis, which in its early stages will effect the bone levels around existing teeth. As the disease progresses more and more bone is lost. In advanced periodontitis, tooth loss is the inevitable outcome. The disease process is due to a bacterial infection of the gums and the bone that supports the teeth.
The bacteria colonize in the gingival tissue. This bacterial colonization will lead to gingival inflammation, causing a pocket to form between the teeth and the gums. If these bacterial colonies are removed promptly, in the early stage of the disease process known as gingivitis, the effects of the disease are completely reversible. If these bacterial colonies are left untreated, however, the disease process will spread to the underlying bone and will begin to destroy it. As teeth lose their supporting bone, they will get loose and may eventually be lost.
While intraoral environmental factors play the major role in the development of periodontal disease, studies have shown familial tendency to develop the disease. The best way to prevent the disease, however, is through the use of easy preventative measures, which if adhered to, may in most cases prevent the onset of the disease process completely.
Here are some of the most common causes of gum disease:
Good oral home care, including proper brushing and flossing, a healthy diet and regular dental visits are the best way to maintain good oral hygiene and prevent the build up of plaque and calculus. In the absence of good oral hygiene, plaque and calculus will accumulate on the teeth and will effect the gum and the supporting bone structure leading to gingivitis and periodontitis.
Among the most significant causes of periodontal disease is tobacco use. Smokers are far more likely to develop periodontal disease, will build up plaque at a faster pace and are less likely to respond positively to periodontal treatments than are non-smokers.
Studies have shown that nearly 30% of the population has either a familial or genetic predisposition to periodontal disease. These patients will be six times more likely to suffer the consequences of periodontal problems than the general population. Even with outstanding oral home care, these patients tend to develop the symptoms of the disease. It is imperative that this segment of the population be seen by a periodontist on a regular basis to assess the development and progress of periodontal disease.
Pregnancy and the hormonal changes associated with it tend to lead to the development of gingivitis. It is imperative to have a meticulous oral hygiene regimen during pregnancy.
Poor diet and a high level of stress tend to lower the body’s ability to fight off infection and weaken the immune system in general. These contributing factors will effect oral health to a great degree. People undergoing high stress thresholds who have poor diets are much more likely to develop periodontal disease.
Many medical conditions can exacerbate the onset and progression of periodontal problems. These include, but are not limited to, diabetes, heart disease, circulatory problems and osteoporosis.
Harmful oral habits such as grinding or clenching of the teeth are also contributing factors to periodontal disease. Malocclusion, the lack of a proper bite, also may promote and exaggerate the effect of the disease process.
Many medicatons have oral manifestations which may lead to periodontal problems. Many of these medications inhibit salivary flow which also promotes periodontal disease.