To almost everyone, teeth loss is an inevitable part of the aging process. As dental professionals, we, however, believe that an individual can maintain all his or her teeth without losing it.
To achieve this, the individual must avoid the diseases that are peculiar to the teeth; an example is a periodontal disease. It is caused by bacteria that attack the tissues around the teeth. The condition may go unnoticed to the untrained eye but will be quickly apparent to a dental professional.
It is common for individuals who fail to maintain good daily oral hygiene to develop gingivitis. This is because bacterial gum infection, if untreated, can progress from gingivitis to periodontitis, resulting in bone loss around the teeth.
The loss of bone tissue causes the gum tissues to detach from the teeth and form little pockets that provide a breeding ground for bacteria — away from the reach of toothbrushes and floss. Hence, the periodontal disease progresses, resulting in more bone loss and eventual tooth loss.
It is also important to note that part of this problem may be genetic, as periodontal disease tends to run in families. Fortunately, the infection can be controlled, even at more advanced stages.
Signs and Symptoms of Periodontal Disease
It is quite difficult for an untrained professional to detect periodontal disease, especially when there are no clear signs. However, there are still certain essential things to look for:
Bleeding gums: many people tend to think that gums bleed as a result of brushing too hard. However, although brushing too hard is bad for the gums, it ought not to cause bleeding. Thus, any bleeding of the gums should be considered a warning sign of gum disease.
Bad breath— as previously alluded to, bacteria find it easy to hide in spaces within the tooth that are unreachable to the toothbrush. One of such places is located between the teeth. The tiny hidden areas within the teeth perfectly breeds bacteria that produce odorous, sulfur-containing compounds, resulting in bad breath.
Redness or swelling of the gums— Inflammation of the gums is usually the first visible sign of periodontal disease.
Receding gums— this occurs when the teeth appear longer than usual. In such case, the gum tissue has receded (away from the enamel), consequently exposing some tooth roots.
Sensitivity— where gum recession occurs, the exposed roots may become sensitive to hot or cold temperatures.
Periodontal abscess— bacteria may become enclosed in a periodontal pocket. Consequently, the area will be swollen with pus and also cause discomfort.
Loose teeth— When bone loss occurs as a result of periodontal disease, teeth may come loose or migrate. Where excessive biting occurs from clenching or grinding occurs, tooth loss takes place at an accelerated pace.
The first step in all periodontal therapy is the evaluation of the patient’s oral hygiene techniques and instruction for improving them. This is followed up with the mechanical removal of plaque or tartar found on the root surfaces. It is done using a cleaning technique known as scaling, root planning, debridement with hand-made tools, or ultrasonic equipment.
The application of antimicrobial products or antibiotics may also be prescribed during various parts of periodontal treatment. It will help to hasten the healing and pocket-depth reduction process while eliminating the need for periodontal surgery.
It, however, happens sometimes that surgical procedures may be necessary to remove the deep pockets that form between inflamed gum tissue and teeth.
Various types of surgeries are available, and each process is addressed depending on the underlying dental condition. Most times, a combination of procedures is used in a move to lower the number of surgeries and it also makes it cost-effective.
Periodontal Disease & Your Overall Health
Although periodontal disease starts in the mouth, it not unconnected to other diseases like cardiovascular disease (CVD), premature birth, and diabetes. Research suggests two plausible mechanisms for the relationship between gum disease and these other serious medical concerns. This is discussed below:
The occurrence of moderate to severe periodontal disease increases the level of systemic (bodily) inflammation — a characteristic of all chronic inflammatory diseases.
It has been discovered that the same bacterial strains that often occur in periodontal pockets surrounding diseased teeth are found in the blood vessel of individuals with CVD. It, therefore, follows that a reduction in periodontal inflammation will lead to a reduction in systemic inflammation.
It is the little, overlooked day-to-day dental care routine that forms the best method in combating periodontal disease. Hence, patients are advised to brush and floss their teeth consistently and partake in regular dental checkups every 3, 4, or 6 months. During the visit, the instruments and techniques used in cleaning the teeth can reach areas that the toothbrush and floss cannot.
Visual evaluation of gingival (gum) tissues and examination of its attachment levels to the teeth goes a long way in aiding the early detection of gum disease. The health of the tooth-supporting bone may also be assessed during the checkup through the use of dental radiographs (x-rays pictures).
Other steps that patients may take include: eating right, reducing stress, and giving up unhealthy habits like smoking to ensure the longevity of their teeth.