The term “periodontal”means “around the tooth.” Periodontal disease (also known as pyorrhea, periodontitis, and gum disease) is a common inflammatory disease which affects the supporting and surrounding soft tissues of the tooth, and the supporting bone in the more advanced stages.
Periodontal disease is most often preceded by gingivitis which is a bacterial infection of the gum tissue. A bacterial infection affects the gums when the toxins contained in plaque begin to irritate and inflame the gum tissues. Once this bacterial infection colonizes in the gum pockets between the teeth, it becomes much more difficult to remove and treat. Periodontal disease is a progressive condition that eventually leads to the destruction of the connective tissue and jawbone. If left untreated, it can lead to halitosis, bleeding gums, gum abscesses, shifting teeth, loose teeth, and eventually tooth loss.
Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults in the developed world and should always be promptly treated.
When left untreated, gingivitis (mild gum inflammation) can spread to below the gum line. When the gums become irritated by the toxins contained in plaque, a chronic inflammatory response causes the body to break down and destroy its own bone and soft tissue. There may be little or no symptoms as periodontal disease causes the teeth to separate from the infected gum tissue. Deepening pockets between the gums and teeth are generally indicative that soft tissue and bone is being destroyed by periodontal disease.
Here are some of the most common types of periodontal disease:
- Chronic periodontitis – Inflammation within supporting tissues cause deep pockets and gum recession. It may appear the teeth are lengthening, but in actuality, the gums (gingiva) are receding. This is the most common form of periodontal disease and is characterized by progressive loss of attachment, interspersed with periods of rapid progression.
- Gingival recession – The level of the gum line recedes on individual or multiple teeth. This may be caused by the type of tissue at the gum line, a muscle pull (frenum), tooth position, and brushing habits.
- Aggressive periodontitis – This form of gum disease occurs in an otherwise clinically healthy individual. It is characterized by rapid loss of gum attachment, chronic bone destruction and familial aggregation.
- Periodontitis caused by systemic disease – This form of gum disease often begins at an early age. Many genetic and developmental diseases can cause periodontal disease. It is also now documented that periodontal disease can be one of the contributing causes of many systemic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
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