What is Periodontal Disease?
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Because periodontal diseases are ongoing infections of the gums, they gradually destroy the support of your natural teeth. Periodontal disease affects one or more of the periodontal tissues: alveolar bone, periodontal ligament, cementum, or gingiva. There are many diseases that affect the tooth-supporting structures, but the most common are, plaque-induced inflammatory lesions called gingivitis and periodontitis. While gingivitis, the less serious of the two, may not progress into periodontitis, it always precedes periodontitis.
Dental plaque is the primary cause of gingivitis. Plaque is a sticky colorless film, composed primarily of food particles and various types of bacteria, which adhere to your teeth at and below the gum line. Plaque constantly forms on your teeth, even minutes after cleaning. When bacteria found in plaque produces toxins and poisons that irritate the gums, the gums may become inflamed, red, swollen, or bleed easily. If this irritation is prolonged, the gums separate from the teeth causing pockets (spaces) to form. If daily brushing and flossing is neglected, plaque can also harden into a rough, porous substance known as calculus (or tartar). This can occur both above and below the gum line.
If gingivitis progresses into periodontitis, the supporting gum tissue and bone that holds teeth in place deteriorates. The progressive loss of this bone, the alveolar, can lead to loosening and subsequent loss of teeth. Periodontitis is affected by bacteria that adhere to the tooth’s surface, along with an overly aggressive immune response to these bacteria. Consequently, periodontal treatment is necessary when the health of your gums and the regions of your jawbone that hold your teeth in place are compromised.
Periodontal disease is dangerous in that it is often painless and symptomless. Eighty percent of Americans will be afflicted with periodontal disease by age 45, and four out of five patients with the disease are unaware they have it. Maintaining proper home oral care and regular dentist visits reduces the risk of obtaining this disease.