Periodontal disease is the infection of the bone surrounding the teeth. Its early stage is called ‘gingivitis’, an infection of the gums around the teeth. Periodontitis is quite common with 47% of over 30 years old adults in US have it. It not common among kids but taking good control of it involves learning good oral habits from childhood
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What Causes Periodontal Disease?
The main cause of the periodontal disease is the buildup plaque and tartar due to poor oral hygiene. 30 minutes after eating, plaque which is a layer of bacteria start to form and if left un-cleaned in 24 hours time, it hardens into tartar also called calculus. While you can clean plaque at home through brushing and flossing, it is hard to clean calculus. With the tartar, you need a dentist intervention.
Another cause of periodontitis is the diet choice, for bacteria to quickly multiply they need a conducive environment, acidic. And the best foods that create this environment for bacteria to thrive are starch and sugar. Consuming too much of white bread, pasta, potatoes, candies, sweets, soda, cola, and other sugary and starch food lower the body PH, makes the body acidic which cause demineralization (tooth mineral loss). The demineralization process if not controlled leads to total destruction to the tooth structure.
Another cause of periodontal disease is the ‘dry mouth’. The body has its way of healing all kinds of sickness disease. In your mouth, there is saliva, if available equipped with good nutrients can remineralize teeth and fight bacteria by creating an un-conducive environment for them to grow. Saliva helps to cure cavities and all kinds of gum disease. However, if your mouth is always dry either due to medication or dehydration, makes bacteria to multiply, producing acids which lead to tooth mineral loss, destroying the tooth bone structure.
Crooked, and misaligned teeth, braces and bridgework are other causes of gum disease, making teeth hard to clean which as a result attracts more plaque and tartar buildup. Smoking and stress can worsen gum disease making it hard to treat.
When you start to see your gums are soft, red, swollen, sore and bleeding when brushing or flossing sometimes even when eating, be aware that these are the first sign of periodontal disease. You can reverse these signs by brushing twice a day, flossing your teeth at least once a day, and remembering to clean your tongue too, using a tongue scraper or an electric toothbrush with a tongue cleaner mode.
If nothing is done,
The buildup layer of plaque and tartar starts to penetrate deep below the gum line causing more gum inflammation. These, as a result, cause gums to start pulling themselves from the teeth (gum recession). The deepening gap between teeth and gums cause the teeth to look longer than they normally do. The exposed tooth root also cause tooth sensitivity to cold and hot foods and drinks.
If left untreated,
The bacteria continue multiplying while penetrating deep inside attacking the supporting bones around the teeth causing cavities, bone loss, loose teeth, and rotting teeth which all in combination, in the long run, lead to teeth loss.
Apart from the experience of losing teeth, your mouth will also start producing bad odour also referred to as ‘bad breath’.
How Fast Does Periodontitis Progress
The periodontitis progresses in episodes, there are times when the soft tissues are destroyed, gums are receding, followed by a period of stagnation then fast, rapid progression destroying the teeth supporting bones. How fast it progresses depends on your health condition, how immune your body is, the presence of other diseases, are you smoking or not, your efforts in following good oral hygiene, and the number and type of bacteria present in your mouth. Simple brushing and flossing daily can slow down the process of gum disease from developing further.
How Long Does It Take For Periodontal Disease To Develop?
For most people, it takes years for periodontal disease to develop. It is a gradual process that if detected and treated earlier can be stopped from progressing further. Left untreated, it can continue to develop sometimes without any obvious signs to alert you, especially for smokers. However, you might experience increased gum bleeding when brushing teeth, increased sensitivity to cold and hot drinks and food, teeth becoming longer than normal and cavities.
People sometimes recognize the presence of periodontitis in their 30 or 40 or 50 years of age in which at that time great destruction on the teeth structure has already happened. A regular dental checkup will help the disease to be spotted earlier before developing further.
What Is the Difference between Gingivitis and Periodontal Disease?
The difference between these 2 gum diseases is that while gingivitis is reversible, periodontal disease is not. It can only be slowed down from progressing further. And whereas gingivitis is the infection of the soft tissues around the teeth; periodontitis, on the other hand, is the infection of the supporting bones around the teeth. While gingivitis is accompanied by swollen gums that bleed easily when brushing, flossing or eating hard food like a raw carrot; periodontal disease, on the other hand, is signaled by gum recession, loose teeth and bad breath.
How to Stop /Treat Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease can be stopped from progressing further in many ways, both naturally and professionally.
If your gum disease is still in the early stage ‘gingivitis’ it can be reversed through brushing both your teeth and gums twice a day in two minutes recommended time, changing your toothbrush head or toothbrush after every three to four months to get rid of accumulated bacteria on brush head, flossing at least once a day, swishing mouthwash for 30 seconds twice a day to reduce plaque, cleaning you tongue using a scraper or toothbrush and attend dental checkups twice a year. Following these defaults, dental care routines will help you to reverse gingivitis at home.
In addition to the normal oral care routines mentioned above, you can fast-track the healing process naturally through oil pulling and swishing aloe vera juice for 30 seconds, twice a day.
Apart from natural ways of healing gingivitis, you can also see your dentist for deep cleaning also called ‘scaling and root planing’. It is an easy and quick way to remove buildup calculus above and below the gum line.
If your dentist finds that your gum disease has progressed into periodontal’ he/she will refer you to the gum doctor also called ‘periodontist’. The gum doctor will examine your gums and teeth further and recommend the best way to treat your infection. Below are surgical procedures that are meant to stop periodontal from progressing further and in which your doctor might recommend one of them:
- Flap surgery –this involves lifting your gums and clean the area underneath then stitch the area back to heal.
- Gum graft surgery –taking tissue from the roof of your mouth or nearby gums and insert it into the damaged gums and stitch the area back.
- Bone grafting – if the bones supporting the teeth have been destroyed, another material or donated bones will be inserted in the damaged area to help support the teeth, prevent tooth loss and act as a platform for the regeneration of natural bones and tissues.
- Guided tissue regeneration – a new piece of material is inserted between your teeth and destroyed bone to help bone to grow back while preventing unwanted materials from entering the area.
- Tissue stimulating protein – a special gel is applied to the damaged area to stimulate the growth of new tissue and bones.
- Tooth extraction and implant- if the supporting bones have been destroyed beyond repair, the tooth need to be extracted and new fake teeth implanted.
In conclusion, it is good to note that periodontal disease is treatable but not reversible. If good oral hygiene is not sustained, it can re-occur.
Dr. Tom Bell has a PhD in Medical Anthropology. He has a keen interest in oral health topics and is the founder of dentalrave. He has been an oral health researcher and electric toothbrush enthusiast for over 10 years. Tom works with Awin and others in his research. When not talking about dental hygiene and gadgets, Tom likes spending time outdoors hiking.