Periodontal Disease – What is it?
Gum and bone (periodontal) disease is an infection of the tissues and bone that support our teeth. Our gums aren’t attached to the teeth as strongly as we might think. A shallow, triangular space exists between our teeth and the gums. Periodontal disease affects this space, unfortunately, because this process is often painless, a person may be unaware a problem exists.
Eventually, in gum disease, the tissues supporting the tooth break down due to untreated infection and inflammation. If only the gums are involved in this breakdown, the disease is termed gingivitis. If both gum and bone are involved, it is called periodontitis.
Factors that aggravate periodontal disease include:
- Smokers are 2-7 times more likely to develop periodontitis than non-smokers, due to a dulled immune response and less oxygen in the mouth.
- Diabetes exacerbates periodontal disease. If a person’s blood sugar level is poorly controlled, a greater infection, poor healing, and a greater loss of bone and connective tissues are likely.
- Stress increases certain hormones that make a person more susceptible to infection.
- Pregnancy and birth control pills can also increase these hormone levels.
- Steroids, anti-seizure medicines, cancer medicines, and blood pressure medicines can all affect the gums.
- Some prescription drugs decrease the flow of saliva, irritating the mouth and drying out the oral tissues thus making it more prone to infection.
Early diagnosis of gum and bone disease is of fundamental importance, and regular appointments are advisable to both achieve, and maintain good health.