What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal diseases are infections of the structures around the teeth, including the gums, periodontal ligament and alveolar bone. The earliest stage of this disease is called gingivitis, which is the inflammation of the gums. If left untreated, this can develop into periodontitis, where the inflammation spreads to other tissues and starts to cause irreversible loss of the jawbone and gums. Eventually, enough jawbone is lost to cause your teeth to become very wobbly and loose, until they need to be extracted.
What causes periodontal diseases?
Gingivitis and periodontitis are both caused by bacteria from plaque and calculus around the teeth. The bacteria around the teeth causes an inflammatory response in the body, and where your immune cells release substances to try an eliminate the bacteria, but as the bacteria are outside of the body, it is unable to reach the bacteria. Instead, these substances cause inflammation, and eventually lead to the destruction of periodontal tissues such as the gums, the periodontal ligament or jawbone. The inflammation leads to swollen, bleeding gums, which are the signs of gingivitis (the earliest stage of periodontal disease), whereas the loosening of the teeth is a sign of severe periodontitis (the advanced stage of disease) where the jawbone has been irreversibly damaged.
The plaque that builds up onto the teeth eventually spreads below the gum line. Here, the bacteria cant be reached by your toothbrush and the bacteria will continue to multiply, causing a more serious infection. Eventually, the gum tissues will detach from the tooth, forming a ‘pocket’, which will hide more difficult to remove bacteria. Plaque can also become calcified, or hardened, turning into calculus (commonly called tartar). Calculus is much harder than plaque, and cannot be cleaned off by your toothbrush. Even more plaque will attach to it, and will spread below the gumline, causing more and more inflammation which will eventually lead to destruction of your gum tissues and jawbone.
To treat periodontal disease, practicing good oral hygiene and visiting your dentist regularly is important. Daily brushing and flossing, when done correctly, help remove most of the plaque from your teeth. Professional cleanings by your dentist or dental hygienist is needed to scale off calculus. Calculus is too hard to brush off with a toothbrush with a toothbrush, and will need to be cleaned off with specialised instruments. Calculus build up is inevitable and happens over time, so seeing a dentist every 6 months is recommended to keep periodontitis at bay and your gums and teeth in good health.
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