Periodontal (gum) disease, including gingivitis and periodontitis, is a serious infection that, left untreated, can lead to tooth loss. The word periodontal literally means “around the tooth.” Periodontal disease is a chronic bacterial infection that affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth. Periodontal disease can affect one tooth or many teeth. It begins when the bacteria in plaque (the sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth) causes the gums to become inflamed.
Gingivitis is the mildest form of periodontal disease. It causes the gums to become red, swollen, and bleed easily. There is usually little or no discomfort at this stage. Gingivitis is often caused by inadequate oral hygiene. Gingivitis is reversible with professional treatment and good oral home care.
Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis. With time, plaque can spread and grow below the gum line. Toxins produced by the bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. The toxins stimulate a chronic inflammatory response in which the body in essence turns on itself, and the tissues and bone that support the teeth are broken down and destroyed. Gums separate from the teeth, forming pockets (spaces between the teeth and gums) that become infected. As the disease progresses, the pockets deepen and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed. Often, this destructive process has very mild symptoms. Eventually, teeth can become loose and may have to be removed.
Did you know…
A study titled Prevalence of Periodontitis in Adults in the United States: 2009 and 2010 estimates that 47.2 percent, or 64.7 million American adults, have mild, moderate or severe periodontitis. In adults 65 and older, prevalence rates increase to 70.1 percent. (https://www.perio.org/consumer/cdc-study.html)
Studies continue to strengthen the relationship between periodontal inflammation and systemic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even an increased risk for certain types of cancers.
Former Surgeon General of the United States, C. Everett Koop, said it best: “You are not a healthy person unless you have good oral health. Oral health is part of general health and it can affect your overall health and your quality of life.”
As Champions for Oral Health, our office is dedicated to the overall health of your mouth, not just your teeth.