Periodontal disease is a progressive disorder that if left untreated will worsen over time. Many people simply ignore the warning signs or just do not know them. Educating yourself on the signs and symptoms of periodontal disease is a good first step to taking control of the disease and it’s progression.
What Is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease (or gum disease) is a serious and chronic infection of the gum tissue that can result in the staged breakdown of the tissue and the deterioration of bone that surrounds and supports your teeth. This infection process begins when bacteria and plaque form a sticky bio film on your teeth. Biofilm causes a chronic inflammation of the gum tissue. Periodontal disease will continue to progress if the biofilm is not reduced or removed. Maintaining proper dental care and hygiene are the most important steps in prevention and halting of the disease. Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. Studies show that somewhere between 75% and 95% of all adults are suffering some stage of periodontal disease.
The stages of periodontal disease include:
-Gingivitis ( inflammation of the gum tissues). This is the initial stage of periodontal disease. This is easily reversible and is the mildest form of periodontal disease. Symptoms include red, swollen (or puffy) and inflamed gums due to plaque-bacteria build-up. The gums may also bleed easily during brushing or eating of hard foods. During this early stage of periodontal disease, the process can be reversed with at home dental hygiene and professional cleanings to remove the biofilm, and tartar. Most of the people with this early form of periodontal disease, do not even know a dental problem exists. This is a crucial period for the patient, as the condition can be reversed (since the bone and connective tissue that hold the teeth in place have not yet been affected) at this point if it is recognized and properly treated. Gingivitis is commonly seen during puberty, pregnancy, times of high stress, and menopause, as hormones can make you more prone to inflammation. As for the rest of the population, poor hygiene is generally the most common cause, followed by medication and certain medical conditions.
-Periodontitis. As the disease state progresses, it is now becoming harder to treat and manage. The difference between gingivitis and periodontitis is that gingivitis only infects the gum tissue that surrounds the teeth while the periodontal disease process also invades the bone that provides support and stability for the teeth. The bacteria eventually invades past the initial the gum line area and destruction begins to the point that gums may begin to separate or pull away from the teeth (taking away support and connective fibers with it). What results are called periodontal pockets. These pockets allow for bacteria to invade below the gum line. They eventually become loaded with toxic plaque and bacteria that moves and works its way deeper. It begins to erode the bone and connective fibers below the gum line. A patient’s bite will be affected (as the teeth shift or loosen) by the lost support which then affects chewing and other functions.
-Advanced Periodontitis. As the periodontal disease process advances further, the fibers and bone that provide support for the teeth are destroyed. At least half of the bone support (if not more) will have broken down at this late stage of periodontal disease. It does not grow back naturally. Teeth may begin to loosen. Deep root cleanings and surgical intervention are typical at this stage. This may include cleaning with a periodontal microscope, (Perioscope), grafting of tissue, bone, placement of growth factors, (Emdogain), periodontal antibiotic regimen (Periostat), placement of antibiotics directly into pockets, (Arestin), open flap surgery, and, possibly tooth removal.
Periodontal Disease Warning Signs
-Puffy, Swollen Gum Tissue. This is a hallmark sign of gingivitis and periodontal disease in general. Your body’s natural response is to fight off this infection caused by excessive untreated debris. It does this by bringing healing components to the area through the blood vessels. The gums will remain this way until the irritant is removed namely the plaque and bacteria building up on your teeth and below the gum line.
-Bleeding Gums. Once the tissues are puffy and receiving extra blood flow to fight off the disease process. This leads to inflamed gum tissue that will bleed easily upon brushing or even eating.
-Presence Of Periodontal Pockets. As the disease process progresses and the bacteria and plaque build up the gum tissue will begin to separate from the teeth creating ever larger pockets where bone will be lost. These pockets become very difficult to clean on your own and necessitate further professional help.
-Infection And Pus. Once there has been significant advancement of pockets, bleeding ends, and infection begins. Pressing on the gums, flossing or probing by the hygienist tends to release pus into the mouth.
-Long Looking Teeth. As we lose bone support, the gum tissue falls back and exposes the root of the tooth. This gives the appearance of longer teeth.
-Persistent Bad Breath. While this can be a sign of other more serious medical conditions it is a hallmark of periodontal disease progression. Much of the odor has to do with the infection process, and tartar.
-Loose Or Drifting Teeth. Once periodontal disease has advanced, the support tissues are diminished. The further the advancement, the looser the teeth become.
Periodontal Disease Conclusion
Periodontal disease is a progressive disease. There are many signs and stages to help you to be aware of it’s progression. The disease process involved in periodontal disease can be quite aggressive making it harder and harder to control and treat. It is best to stay ahead of that process by being diligent with at home dental hygiene and maintaining a regular schedule of professional cleanings.