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What Is Gum Disease?

cross section of tooth Periodontal diseases are caused by bacterial infections that attack gums, ligaments and bone. There are several kinds of periodontal disease. Often painless, these diseases may develop slowly or progress quite rapidly; and they can occur at any age. Unless you have regular dental checkups, including a periodontal exam, you may not be aware you have a problem until your gums and bone have been seriously compromised.

At the very edge of the gumline, the gum tissue is not attached to the tooth. Instead, there is a shallow, V-shaped groove called the sulcus between the tooth and gum. The normal space between teeth and healthy gums should be three millimeters or less. With periodontal disease, this tiny space develops into a pocket. Generally, the more severe the disease, the greater the depth of the pockets.

Stages of Gum Disease

The early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. If you have gingivitis, your gums may become red, swollen and bleed easily. At this stage, the disease is still reversible and can usually be eliminated by a professional cleaning at your dental office, followed by daily brushing and flossing.

Advanced gum disease is called periodontitis. Chronic periodontitis can lead to the loss of tissue and bone that support the teeth and it may become more severe over time. If it does, your teeth will feel loose and start moving around in your mouth. It usually gets worse slowly, but there can be periods of rapid progression. Read more about periodontal disease

Causes of Periodontal Disease

The mouth contains a large number and variety of bacteria that form a sticky colorless film called plaque.

The bacteria that cause periodontal diseases create toxins (poison), which irritate the gums and bone. Even if you brush and clean between your teeth every day, you may not be able to completely remove plaque, especially around the gumline.

Plaque that is not removed can harden into a rough, porous deposit called calculus, or tartar. Calculus can only be removed when your teeth are cleaned in the dental office. As calculus forms near the gumline, the gums become irritated and inflamed.

Certain factors can increase the risk, severity, and speed at which periodontal diseases develop. This includes factors such as:
•  Genetics
•  Smoking or chewing tobacco
•  Bridges that no longer fit properly or fillings that have become defective
•  Malocclusion (crooked teeth or bad bite)
•  Clenching or grinding teeth
•  Poor diet
•  Pregnancy
•  Stress
•  Systemic diseases, such as leukemia, AIDS or diabetes
•  Menopause
•  Osteoporosis
•  Medications, such as steroids, some types of anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, some calcium channel blockers, and oral contraceptives.

Regular dental checkups and periodontal examinations are very important. The treatment methods that our dentists diagnose will depend upon the type of disease and how far the condition has progressed. Good dental care at home is essential to help keep periodontal disease from becoming more serious or recurring.

Learn More About Periodontal Treatment:

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