When you think about the little time it takes to brush twice daily for two minutes each, and another minute to floss, that’s not much time to head off the many unpleasant outcomes of oral diseases such as periodontal disease. Just so you know what good oral hygiene can prevent, here’s an overview of just what periodontal disease entails.
What is gum disease?
Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease or periodontitis, involves inflammation of the soft tissue surrounding the teeth — the gums. In its most advanced stages periodontal disease can also affect the jawbone.
Commonly, gum disease grows out of gingivitis, the bacterial infection of the gums. Bacteria found in plaque, if left unchecked by lack of consistent oral hygiene, can attack the gums, causing irritation and inflammation. When bacterial infection spreads to the gum pockets found in between teeth, the condition becomes more difficult to treat. Periodontitis is progressive, advancing from inflammation to destruction of tissue and bone. If left untreated, the end result is severe jawbone deterioration, resulting in loose teeth or teeth that fall out on their own or require extraction, due to loss of bone around roots.
What happens when periodontal disease is not treated?
Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults, but this result can be avoided with early detection and treatment. Without intervention, gingivitis can spread to areas below the gum line. Once the gums become irritated by bacteria, the body triggers a chronic inflammatory response that allows the breakdown and destruction of the soft tissues, as well as bone. As the condition progresses, patients will notice the teeth detaching from the gum tisssue. These deepened pockets between the teeth and gums are a sign that the gums and bone are slowly being destroyed by the disease.
What are the different types of gum disease?
There are different types of gum disease; the most common types are the following:
- Chronic periodontitis– The most common type of periodontal disease, chronic periodontitis involves the gums and teeth detaching at a sometimes rapid pace.
- Aggressive periodontitis– This type of disease rapidly progresses, as gums detach and the bone begins to be destroyed.
- Necrotizing periodontitis– This type of periodontal disease commonly occurs in patients with systemic conditions, like immunosuppression, HIV, and malnutrition. It is characterized by necrosis, or tissue death, in the periodontal ligament, gingival tissues, and alveolar bone.
- Periodontitis due to systemic disease– This condition usually starts at an early age. Common co-factors of the disease include diabetes, heart disease, and respiratory conditions.