Periodontitis is a serious gum infection that destroys the soft tissue and bone that support your teeth. Chronic periodontitis, the most common classification, affects mostly adults, though children may be affected as well. People usually don’t show signs of gum disease until they are in their 30s or 40s. Although teenagers rarely develop periodontitis, they can develop gingivitis, the milder form of gum disease.
Healthy Gums, Healthy Body, Beautiful Smiles
By Natalie Counts
Problem of Plaque
Periodontitis typically begins with plaque, a sticky film composed of bacteria that forms on your teeth when starches and sugars interact with the bacteria normally found in your mouth. Even after brushing, plaque can reform within 24 hours. Plaque that stays on your teeth longer than two or three days can harden under your gum line into tartar, which requires a professional dental cleaning to remove. Plaque and tartar may irritate and inflame the part of your gum around the base of your teeth. This is called gingivitis, the mildest form of periodontal disease. Ongoing inflammation eventually causes pockets to develop between your gums and teeth that fill with plaque, tartar and bacteria. This bacteria can advance under your gum tissue, and infections can cause a loss of tissue and bone. If too much bone is destroyed, you may lose one or more teeth. Unfortuntately, most people are not aware they have periodontitis as it is usually painless in the early stages. Symptoms are not present until the disease is moderate to severe.
Signs and symptoms of periodontitis can include:
• Swollen, bright red or purplish gums
• Gums that feel tender when touched
• Receding gums
• New spaces between teeth
• Pus between your teeth and gums
• Bad breath or bad taste in your mouth
• Loose teeth
• A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
The risk factors for periodontitis include gingivitis, heredity, poor oral health habits, tobacco use, diabetes, stress, older age, decreased immunity, poor nutrition, certain medications, hormonal changes, substance abuse, and ill-fitting dental restorations.
Complications of Chronic Inflamation Associated with Periodontitis
Research suggests that the chronic inflammation associated with periodontitis can affect your lungs, heart and other parts of your body. Conditions associated with this gum disease, can include:
• Coronary artery disease
• Low birth weight babies
• Poorly controlled diabetes
• Respiratory problems
A variety of methods are available to treat periodontitis. Therapy is designed to prevent further bone and tooth loss. Treatment by a specialist may be indicated depending on the scope and severity of the disease.
Get regular professional dental cleanings on a schedule recommended by your dentist. Use a soft toothbrush; replace it every three to four months. Consider using an electric toothbrush, which may be more effective at removing plaque and tartar. Brush your teeth at least twice a day, and floss daily. Use a mouth rinse to help reduce plaque. Use a proxybrush specially designed to clean between your teeth for extra prevention. Don’t rely on tartar-control toothpaste to do the job that brushing and flossing should.
The best way to prevent periodontitis is to follow a program of good oral hygiene. Begin as early as possible, even with your children, and practice good habits throughout your life.