What Is Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease is an inflammatory disease caused by bacteria. It is a disease of the bone and gums that surround the teeth. Typically your gums shrink back from around the base of your tooth and your teeth become loose. You might see blood or pus at your gum line where your tooth sits, have tooth pain or be grinding your teeth.
Other symptoms of periodontal disease can be taking place elsewhere in your body, you may be diabetic or insulin resistant or given birth to a pre-term or low birth weight baby or be suffering from coronary artery disease. These symptoms, as I have discussed before, can all be caused by the advanced form of gum disease called periodontal disease.
How is Periodontal Disease Treated?
You have to treat periodontal disease aggressively especially if you have signs it could be elsewhere in the body because these signs show the disease has progressed to the point where your whole body system is breaking down.
What Causes Inflammation in Your Gums?
The gums and tissues around your teeth get inflamed because of bacterial plaque on your teeth. Gingivitis is a mild form of periodontal disease that is caused by not brushing or flossing your teeth on a regular basis. With gingivitis, your gums are irritated become red and swollen, bleed easily and you may also have bad breath, but the bone around the teeth has not been affected.
In the more advanced periodontal disease, the gums and bone around the teeth are impacted. There is a destruction of the part of the jawbone that holds the teeth in. This also affects the ligament of connective tissue fibres that attach to your tooth and the bone it sits in.
When you have the periodontal disease the process of destruction advances in the direction of the end of the roots, the outer layer of gum can stay high but underneath the damage is being done as your bone and fibres that hold your teeth in place get destroyed. This forms what is called a pocket, and causes loosening of teeth and ultimately the loss of your teeth.
How Do Dentists Spot Periodontal Disease?
To assist us to diagnose the presence of periodontal disease and the extent of any damage the hygienist or dentist will measure the depth of your gum using a special measuring ruler which is slipped between your tooth and your gum. This allows us to know what is under the surface just like your doctor listening to your heart or taking your blood pressure.
This measurement needs to be done a minimum of once a year so we can keep a close eye on what is happening with your gum health without trying to guess by looking from the outside in.
Causes of Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease is an infection of the gums that affects over half of the adult population. In age groups over 65 years old, this is more like 70%.
It starts with plaque, which is a bacterial sticky substance that forms on your teeth, Plaque is considered a biofilm, which is a bacterial slime that grows and grows over time. Like a monster in a horror movie happening in your mouth. If you’re finding this hard to picture think of the inside of the drainpipe in your sink when it is removed it's all slimy inside. This is biofilm.
Biofilm is made up of bacteria and proteins that become a highly functioning self-organising colony. They extract iron from blood cells by bursting them open, which can lead to anaemia.
The bacteria are dependent on the pH of the area they live in and they like to hide in places where they will be undisturbed. The outermost layer is a mix of aerobic bacteria (they need oxygen to survive) while deeper in its more anaerobic (do not need oxygen to survive). Anaerobic bacteria release what are called endotoxins and these are harmful to the rest of your body.
Biofilms have been suspected in chronic inflammatory response syndrome and are associated with multiple symptoms like weakness, pain, cough, shortness of breath, joint pain, appetite swings, night sweats, excessive thirst, temperature regulation problems, cognitive impairment, blurred vision and irritable bowel-like symptoms.
So biofilms can be very serious if they are spreading around your system.
Removing Bacterial Biofilms
The only way disturbs dental biofilm (plaque) is to physically agitate and break it loose. Biofilms are sensitive to things like ozone gas and nanoparticle silver.
It’s important to floss and brush effectively to break down the biofilm regularly and also to brush your teeth with good products.
As biofilm accumulates on your teeth and it's not physically removed it will start to harden and calcify. This happens as minerals come together and form what is known as tartar or calculus.
Now oddly in some people, the tartar seems to form in spite of good physical health and a high standard of oral hygiene. The Tartar build up is dependent on the pH (acidity or alkalinity) of the saliva and the surface texture of the teeth.
Tartar creates a rough surface that supports more bacterial growth. As the bacteria grow they further affect and harm the gums and support tissues around your teeth and you develop what is know as gum disease or gingivitis.
Symptoms of gingivitis include red swollen gums, bleeding, bad breath, and sometimes an unpleasant taste in your mouth.
The process of going from having bacteria and plaque to gingivitis is affected by a number of factors including how healthy your immune system is. Are you eating well, getting enough sleep and do you manage stress well? If not you are setting yourself up for poor immune health and gum issues.
The right food is essential for good gum health. Not enough Vitamin C will cause scurvy. Without vitamin C your body can’t produce collagen, which is the scaffolding of the connective tissue. It’s the connective tissue that holds your teeth in your gums.
When sailors used to travel the world on long ocean voyages for months on end, they weren’t able to get fresh fruits and vegetables to eat and even though they didn’t know it at the time due to the lack of vitamin c in their diets their teeth ended up falling out until scientists finally realised that eating fresh citrus fruits could prevent scurvy. And that’s how British sailors got the nickname Limey because of all the limes they ate to ward off scurvy.
So one of the best ways to prevent periodontal disease is to eat nutritional foods and get plenty of vitamin C as well as brushing twice a day and flossing.
Untreated gingivitis will worsen to become periodontitis where bacteria continue to grow and destroy both the gums and supporting bone. Pockets can form where your teeth separate from your gums and bone. This is serious irreversible damage that will lead to tooth loss if untreated.
So you end up with bad breath, loose, wobbly teeth, infections, gum abscesses and no teeth. But worse still is the impact it’s having on you and your health.
If you have read, bleeding or swollen gums, gums that are receding, teeth that are drifting or bad breath – you have gum disease and need to see a dentist for treatment now – your life literally depends on it.