The meaning of the word periodontal is “around the tooth”. Periodontal disease occurs when the gums and jaw bone deteriorate, thereby damaging the natural support for the teeth.
The most common cause of periodontal disease is plaque—a sticky film composed of food debris, saliva, and bacteria. If plaque is allowed to remain on the teeth, it quickly transforms into calculus (also called “tartar”). When calculus and plaque remain on the teeth, they can cause destruction of the gums and underlying bone. Periodontal disease is typically characterized by gums that are red, swollen, and bleeding.
Eighty per-cent of people—that’s 4 out of 5—are to some degree afflicted with periodontal disease, and many of them don’t even know it! That’s because in the early stages, the disease is usually painless.
Research shows that periodontal disease is the leading reason for tooth loss. In fact, there is convincing evidence that periodontal disease may even contribute to other health issues, including diabetes, bacterial pneumonia, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and higher risk during pregnancy.
Researchers are currently investigating whether inflammation and bacteria that are associated with periodontal disease may contribute to these systemic conditions and diseases. Another factor that has been shown to contribute to the risk of periodontal disease is smoking.
By practicing good oral hygiene, a healthy diet, and regular dental visits, you can help to reduce the risk that you will develop periodontal disease.
Symptoms that point to periodontal disease:
- Persistent bad breath – If you are struggling with frequent halitosis, it is probable that you may have excess bacteria in your mouth.
- Tenderness or Discomfort – Bacteria, calculus and plaque tend to irritate gums and teeth.
- Red and puffy gums – Gums should never be red or swollen.
- Bleeding gums – Your gums should never bleed—even when you floss or vigorously brush your teeth.
- Changes in spacing between teeth – tooth movement may be caused by loss of bone and gum tissue.
- Loose teeth – if your teeth are becoming loose, the problem is likely caused by weakened periodontal fibers (that secure teeth in the bone) or by bone loss. Either of these related problems are symptoms of periodontal disease.
- Pus around the teeth and gums – Pus accumulation is a sure sign of infection.
- Receding gums – Are your gums shrinking or pulling away from your teeth?
If you have any of these symptoms, you should see your dentist immediately! To delay can result in permanent loss of precious teeth and other potentially dangerous side-effects.