The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) estimates that approximately 80 percent of American adults have some form of periodontal disease. In general terms, periodontal disease refers to disease of the gum tissues, or gum disease; but if left untreated, periodontal disease can progress to where the tissues of the gums and the bones of the mouth are destroyed, and teeth are also lost.
What causes periodontal disease? The mouth is full of bacteria. Unless good oral hygiene is practiced constantly, the bacteria will build up around the base of the teeth, eventually causing gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, accompanied by halitosis, or bad breath. Gingivitis is treatable with daily brushing, flossing, and professional cleaning by the dentist or oral hygienist.
However, if left untreated, gingivitis will worsen into periodontitis, which literally means “inflammation around the tooth.” At this stage, the gums recede from the teeth and develop deep pockets of infection as the plaque, which consists of built-up deposits of bacteria, spreads and grows below the gum line. If not treated, periodontitis eventually destroys the bone of the jaw, the gums, and the connective tissues that hold the teeth in place, resulting in lost teeth. Periodontitis is treatable with advanced dental procedures, but the damage to the bone tissues and teeth is irreversible.
In addition to the physiological damage to the oral cavity, it has been found that the bacterium associated with the inflammation caused by periodontitis is the same microorganism responsible for arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Further, the infection caused by periodontitis circulates throughout the bloodstream, causing a threat to overall good health.
There are four significant factors you should keep in mind about periodontal disease. Firstly, periodontal disease is the greatest single cause for oral bone structure loss and tooth loss in the United States. It can be prevented by good oral hygiene and professional check-ups, and if discovered in its earliest stages, periodontal disease is fully reversible.
Secondly, periodontal disease, particularly periodontitis, has been proven to pose a threat to overall health. If you are diagnosed as having periodontal disease, treatment should be initiated immediately to preclude bone and tooth loss, and overall health risks.
Thirdly, the care and good health of the periodontium, that is, the tissues and structures that support the teeth, will affect you later in life, as well as today. Growing old with a full complement of health teeth will allow you to thoroughly chew food, which helps with better digestion. This will be especially important to you when you grow older, and your digestive tract is not as efficient as it was when you were younger.
And finally, the benefits of healthy gums, firm teeth, fresh breath, and a wonderful smile are the natural consequence of maintaining good oral health through practicing oral hygiene and having regular check-ups.
If you have sensitive or bleeding gums, have it checked out by our dentists at 7 Day Dental Laguna Woods, and do not procrastinate. If you are diagnosed as having any form of periodontic disease, start treatment immediately. Always bear in mind the benefits of having healthy teeth and gums, and remember that if caught in time, periodontal disease is curable.