Other than tooth decay, periodontitis is the leading threat to dental health. Numerous studies have indicated a link between dental health, mental health, and your overall health. Poor oral health has been associated with heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and lung infections. In the old days when no links to systemic issues were know, tooth loss was the only concern. Knowing what we know today, that dental health affects the health of your whole body, proper dental hygiene is of the utmost importance. In today’s blog we discuss the stages of periodontal disease, symptoms, and treatments.
Periodontitis causes other problems
Gum problems are on the rise world wide. Twelve million Germans suffer from it and over 50 percent of Americans and Britons. Not only does periodontal disease result in tooth loss, it is detrimental to your overall health and well-being as it has been connected to many chronic systemic health conditions including diabetes, heart disease, lung infections, and Alzheimer’s disease. It is believed that the pathogenic bacteria that cause periodontal disease may produce “waste streams” that filter into your blood contributing to disease.
Periodontal Disease Statistics
In some form, whether mild, moderate, or severe, periodontitis affects nearly half of all Americans aged 30 and older. Because it takes time to develop, primarily due to poor oral hygiene, it tends to show up later in life. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report the following statistics:
- Periodontal disease increases with age from 47.2% at age 30 and above, to 70.1% at age 65 and older
- The percentage is higher for those living below poverty level (65.4%)
- Those without a high school diploma have a higher percentage (66.9%)
- The percentage is higher for smokers (64.2%)
- The percentage is higher for men than women (56.4% to 38.4%)
Although we can’t know for sure how many, our mouths harbor thousands of bacteria. While most people only host 34 to 72 different types, over 700 strains have been found in the human oral cavity. While some are harmless, others are not. It’s the harmful bacteria that cause gingivitis. They feast on leftover food particles, sugars, and starches in our mouths producing plaque. Plaque is a clear, sticky biofilm that coats our teeth, particularly around the gingival tissue.
If plaque is not removed it hardens into tartar which is a cement like substance and can only be removed by a dental hygienist. The longer plaque remains on teeth the more damage it can do. It causes gingival inflammation called gingivitis, the earliest form of periodontal disease. Because gingivitis is limited to the gingival tissue it can be treated and sometimes reversed with proper oral hygiene and professional dental cleanings. Symptoms of gingivitis include red, swollen, and bleeding gums. Left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis.
Periodontitis is full-blown, severe gum disease. When left untreated the plaque biofilm that causes gingivitis hardens into tartar and, as it continues to build up, can spread below the gumline, pushing the gums away from the teeth and causing gingival pockets to form. Because the tooth root is not protected with enamel, but rather a softer substance called cementum, it is vulnerable to decay. The bacteria filled tartar eats away at the tooth root, connective tissue, and the jaw bone supporting the teeth, resulting in tooth loss. It is important to be aware of the symptoms of periodontal disease, which include:
- Chronic bad breath
- Bleeding, tender, red, or inflammation of the gums
- Receding gums (gums pulling away from teeth)
- Tooth sensitivity
- Pain while chewing
- Loose teeth
- Loss of alveolar bone
- Tooth loss
Of course the best way to prevent periodontitis is to recognize the risk factors. Certain risk factors have been associated with periodontal disease. These include:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Diabetes and other illnesses and their treatments, i.e., cancer and AIDS
- Certain medications that cause dry mouth
- Hormonal changes in women
- Heredity – genetically susceptible
Current treatments for gum disease
Of course the best start is to maintain good oral hygiene. Regularly removing plaque from the teeth and gums will immediately improve periodontal health. Beyond that, scaling and root planning, and possibly a course of antibiotics, are common treatment for periodontal disease. Scaling consists of scraping the tartar off the teeth above and below the gumline. Root planing smoothes rough spots where the bacteria can gather. A smooth surface makes it harder for them to adhere to the root surface. Scaling and root planing can be done with manual tools or ultrasonic tools which can be quicker, more effective, and more comfortable.
Often teeth are lost with advanced gum disease. A frequent questions we receive is, “can I get implants with gum disease?” Loss of the bone that held the teeth presents problems in the future. The bone is needed to hold dental implants that can be used to replace your lost teeth. Surgeons use CT scans to determine if there is enough bone to do implants.
Studies for future treatment of periodontal disease
Research studies to find ways to combat periodontitis are in full swing. Scientists are looking for ways to eradicate the harmful bacteria and preventing it from attacking your gums. This will prevent it from seeding the circulatory system. In the process, many unique and unexpected sources to combat pathogenic bacteria that cause gingivitis are being brought to light.
Commercial mouthwashes kill both the good and bad bacteria in your mouth. There are studies now testing things such as mouthwash that contains seaweed extract. More studies are needed but the phenols found in certain types of seaweeds eradicate bacteria and not others. These phenols maintain a healthy balance of both the good and bad bacteria in the oral cavity. For instance, 57 species of seaweed have been tested against Prevotella intermedia and Porphyromonas gingivalis during one study, and of the 57, seventeen proved to inhibit the growth of both bacteria.
Gum disease may increase the likelihood of other systemic diseases.
Learn more about periodontal disease
We offer professional cleanings specific for many types of gum problems.
Aside from providing expert general and cosmetic dentistry services to our community, Dr. James Fondriest also holds highly respected academic appointments at the Pankey Institute and the Spear Institute. He is a former Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School. At Lake Forest Dental Arts, Dr. Fondriest combines his impressive array of experience with modern technology and caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable staff. We proudly serve patients from the Chicago Metro area and all surrounding communities. To schedule your consultation, call our office today at (847) 234-0517.