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Periodontal (gum) disease


Periodontal disease is an infection of the gums around your teeth. It is caused by a build-up of plaque, a sticky film of bacteria. Good oral hygiene habits help to reduce plaque levels. However, if plaque is not removed through brushing, flossing, and regular dental check-ups, it begins to accumulate and harbor bacteria that attacks the soft tissue around the gums. Plaque that remains on the teeth longer than a few days can harden to form tartar (calculus). The tartar acts as a reservoir for bacteria. A professional cleaning is needed to remove tartar. There are two stages of periodontal disease: gingivitis and periodontitis.

Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease. The gums become red, swollen, and will bleed. You may notice you have bad breath. There is usually no pain involved. Gingivitis is a result of poor oral hygiene. It is reversible, following a professional cleaning and proper oral care at home.

Periodontitis is the advancement of gingivitis. At this point, the toxins in the plaque and tartar irritate the gums which causes an inflammatory response. This causes the gums to pull away from the teeth forming pockets, where food and plaque are trapped. The tissues and bone that support the teeth break down. This disease advances slowly, but left untreated, eventually leads to teeth becoming loose and needing to be removed.

Some factors than can increase your risk of developing periodontal disease:

  • Smoking, chewing tobacco
  • Diabetes
  • Genetics
  • Certain medications (Steroids, anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy. Some calcium channel blockers, oral contraceptives)
  • Crooked teeth
  • Pregnancy

Some warning signs of periodontal disease:

  • Gums that bleed easily
  • Red, swollen, sore gums
  • Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
  • Persistant bad breath
  • Loosening of teeth
  • Changes in the way your teeth fit together
  • Changes in the fit of a partial denture

Treatment options for periodontal disease depend upon how far the disease has progressed:

  • Nonsurgical treatments include scaling and root planing (deep cleaning) of diseased teeth and gums; antimicrobial treatment of gingival pockets and rinses.
  • Surgical or laser treatment
  • Removal of teeth

Scientific research has discovered linkage between gum disease and stroke, heart disease, diabetes – even an increased risk for pregnant women. When your gums are diseased, your entire immune system is weakened.

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