Periodontal disease or periodontitis is a severe form of gum disease, that causes gum inflammation and bleeding, as well as destroying the bone that supports the teeth. If it progresses unchecked, it can lead to tooth loss, and has been associated with systemic inflammatory conditions, such as hardening of the heart arteries and rheumatoid arthritis.
Researchers have found an anti inflammatory protein called Del-1 that inhibits the bone loss by curbing the cells in the bone that absorb bone tissue. Research in America is currently investigating whether Del-1 based drugs can be produced to help inflammatory diseases like periodontal disease, as well as assist with bone loss in osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
> Periodontitis (gum + bone disease)
Gum disease is common and is usually caused by a build-up of plaque on teeth.
There are two main stages of gum disease:
Gingivitis is early gum disease and occurs when the bacterial film builds up on teeth, especially where the gum joins the tooth.
Signs of gingivitis
- bleeding (particularly when brushing)
- swelling of the gum
2. Periodontitis OR PERIODONTAL DISEASE
Periodontitis is advanced gum disease that may occur if gingivitis is not treated. The gum margin, the part of the gum that seals to the tooth, is weakened and gaps or pockets form between the tooth and the gum, which are called ‘periodontal pockets.’ Bacteria become jammed in these pockets causing further inflammation (redness and swelling).
Periodontitis can affect the covering of the tooth root (cementum), the bone and the fibres that connect the cementum to the bone (periodontal ligament). As the disease progresses and more bone is lost, larger spaces and gaps begin to form between the tooth and the gum as the gum shrinks away.
Signs of periodontitis
- receding gums with bad breath
- a bad taste in the mouth
- loose teeth
> Cleaning teeth diligently can help prevent gum disease
It might be tempting to avoid cleaning your gums when they are inflamed and bleeding, but regular brushing and flossing will help improve the situation.
> Seek dental care
Early intervention to treat gum diseases can ensure the longevity of your teeth, like many conditions. If you have swollen or bleeding gums or your teeth feel loose, see your dentist.
The dentist or oral health professional will examine your gums with a probe to gently measure the spaces between the tooth and gum. This will determine the health of your gums and supporting structures. If necessary, the dentist or oral health professional will instruct you in tooth cleaning techniques or usually advise professional removal of any plaque and calculus (hardened plaque) that usually collect around the gum line of the teeth. Most people will require professional scaling and cleaning of their teeth each 6 months, because the hardened bacteria likes to cement strongly to the root surfaces, and irritates the gums.
> Things to remember
Gum disease affects most people at some stage in their life.
One of the common signs of gum disease is bleeding gums.
The two stages of gum disease are gingivitis and periodontitis.
Careful cleaning can help prevent gum disease.
Getting treatment early can help save teeth that are at risk from gum disease and other conditions – see your dentist or oral health professional if you have swollen or bleeding gums or loose teeth.
> 7 tips to maintain good oral health
Eat a healthy and balanced diet of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meat, fish and wholegrains.
Avoid saturated fats in your diet.
Limit sugary foods and drinks to meal times, or preferably eliminate.
Brush your teeth and gums twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste. Preferably use an Oral B Professional Care electric toothbrush.
Visit a dentist or other oral health professional each six months.
Drink plenty of water.
Avoid smoking as it exacerbates the bone loss.