Gums are the pink tissue that surrounds the teeth. Periodontal tissue is a ligament that supports and nourishes the tooth from the underlying bone. Both are susceptible to inflammation and infection. In fact, gum and periodontal disease is the most common infection in man, woman or child. Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria in the form of plaque or calculus (calcified plaque). Inflammation of the gums occurs in response to the presence of these bacteria.
Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease affecting the gum only. It can be reversed with daily brushing and flossing, There is no loss of bone or tissue but the tissues appear red, swollen and may bleed easily. If this is untreated it can advance to periodontitis.
Periodontitis occurs when the inflammation spreads to the underlying supporting structures of the tooth. Bacterial toxins and the bodies inflammatory enzymes fighting the infection actually start to break down the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place. If not treated, the bones, gums, and connective tissue that support the teeth are destroyed. This is usually relatively painless, and in severe cases the teeth may eventually become loose. Clinical examination and X-rays can be undertaken to identify affected areas.
For the rest of your body’s health the presence of low grade inflammation or infection causing oxidative stress and the production of free radicals which have recently been shown to contribute to cardiovascular disease, non insulin dependent diabetes, osteoporosis and low birth weight.
Risk Factors for periodontal disease:
- Smoking – Smoking is one of the most significant risk factors associated with the development of periodontitis. Additionally, smoking can lower the chances of success of some treatments
- Diabetes – People with diabetes are at higher risk for developing infections because their bodies are unable to fight infection effectively.
- Medications – Some drugs, such as antidepressants and some heart medicines, can affect oral health because they lessen the flow of saliva. (Saliva has a protective effect on teeth and gums.)
- Illnesses – Diseases like cancer or AIDS and their treatments can also affect the health of gums
- Genetic susceptibility – Some people are more prone to severe periodontal disease than others. If your parents had problems with tooth loss then there is a greater chance that you will develop periodontitis.
Treatment of gum infections – Deep Cleaning (Scaling and Root Planing)
The aim of periodontal treatment is to remove the bacteria causing the inflammation, hence slowing the rate of tissue and bone damage. The dentist, periodontist (gum specialist) or dental hygienist removes the calculus through a deep-cleaning method called scaling and root planing. Scaling means scraping off the tartar from above and below the gum line. Root planing gets rid of rough spots on the tooth root where the germs gather, and helps remove bacteria that contribute to the disease. With this reduction in bacteria the pocket of gum around the tooth hopefully reduces in size to prevent bacteria lying deep in your gums and also to allow a small pocket which can easily be managed at home with effective brushing and flossing techniques.