Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues that support the teeth. The gum tissue is not attached to the teeth as high as it may seem - there are very shallow v-shaped crevices called sulcus between the tooth and gums. Healthy gums are firm and resilient, and pink in color. They do not bleed on probing. The issue is firm with a normal variation of lighter and darker areas.
Between 80 and 90 percent of our population has some observable gum disease. More than half of all people over 18 and over 75 percent of those age 35 or older are affected.
Studies show that periodontal disease can lead to heart attack, stroke, diabetes, pancreatic cancer, respiratory disease and digestive disorders. If you are suffering from gum disease, the resulting inflammations will place a constant burden on your health, lowering your resistance to all diseases.
First it is important to identify whether your gums or a tooth is infected.
Periodontal diseases are classified according to the severity of the disease. Gingivitis is a milder and reversible form of periodontal disease that only affects the gums. Gingivitis may lead to the more destructive form known as periodontitis.
In its earliest stages, gum disease (inflammation or infection of the gums) is referred to as gingivitis.
If gingivitis is left untreated, it can progress into periodontitis. Periodontitis is much more of a threat. As plaque spreads below the gum line, it creates a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and toxins. These toxins produce a chronic inflammatory response that cause the tissue and bone that support the teeth to be destroyed. The gums separate from the teeth, forming pockets which can become infected by bacteria. Ultimately, the associated bone loss and infections will result in tooth loss. Periodontitis is the number one cause of tooth loss in adults.
Bone and gum tissue should fit snuggly around your teeth. Gum pockets are formed when dental plaque pushes the gums away from the teeth and causes the supporting gum tissue to break down. As the tissues are damaged, the sulcus develops into a pocket. Generally, the more severe the disease, the greater the depth of the pocket.
Periodontal diseases attack just below the gum line in the sulcus, where they cause the attachment of the tooth and its supporting tissues to break down.
- Moderate gum disease - gum pockets measure 4 to 5 mm deep throughout the mouth. Characteristic are puffy, bleeding gums, pockets formed around the teeth and bacterial counts are significantly elevated.
- Advanced gum disease - the gum pockets can get 6 to 10 mm or deeper. Teeth may begin to loosen, pus may appear and the most destructive forms of bacteria are prevalent.
Generally the dentist professional will perform a test to measure the depth of the pockets -- specifically BOP or "Bleeding On Probing". However, this procedure is only about 30% accurate, and it is hardly considered a dependable diagnostic procedure. What is certain is that BOP will spread infection throughout the mouth.
Gum disease can be caused by systemic diseases such as diabetes, but also stress and medications.
In most cases, gum disease is a result of:
- poor dental hygiene / lack of proper dental care; sometimes poorly fitted bridges or crooked teeth, as well as defective fillings make cleaning difficult, therefore, contribute to gum disease
- poor nutrition -- eating a diet rich in starches & sugar and low in nutrients (junk food).
- sensitivity to certain foods
- Some medications, such as steroids, anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, calcium channel blockers and oral contraceptives
- chemicals in mouth care products. For example, chemical mouth washes are known to damage the gums. Gum pockets are formed by fluoride (ingredients in commercial tooth care products and added to drinking water) - as fluoride severs the protein molecules adhering the gums to the teeth.
- tobacco smoking or chewing
- heredity (which may predispose you to this condition, but with excellent mouth care and good nutrition gum disease can be held in check nonetheless)
Good oral hygiene and proper nutrition are vital for maintaining a healthy mouth. Click here to find out how to keep your teeth strong and free from infections.
Brush and floss regularly. If you maintain a clean environment, your body can heal itself. The accumulated plaque and calculus below the gum line must be removed in order for your gums to heal. Your gums cannot tighten up against a tooth that is covered with hardened plaque (a breeding ground for bacteria). So root scaling may be necessary, in combination with natural treatments.
Diligently rinsing acids and food particles off your teeth during and after eating can eliminate most common dental problems. Of course, sugary or acidic beverages will worsen the state of your teeth. For dental health it's best to sip with water, milk or unsweetened green tea (or sweetened with Stevia) -- which will safely clean your teeth and rinse off the acids that build up after a meal.
If you would like to add to or correct any of the above information, or would like to share with GreenAndHealthy.Info visitors your own experiences, please e-mail GreenAndHealthy.Info Webmaster.
Photo contributions and articles are welcome!