Periodontitis, also known as gum disease, is a severe bacterial infection affecting the soft tissues surrounding your teeth. It initiates as inflammation in these tissues and, when left untreated, can progressively harm the bone supporting your teeth, potentially resulting in tooth looseness or loss. Preventing periodontitis largely hinges on oral care practices, including brushing teeth at least twice daily, daily flossing, and maintaining regular dental checkups.
Periodontal disease progresses through four stages, each with increasing severity:
- Gingivitis: This is the early stage, where gums become red and swollen, but there’s no bone loss. Gingivitis is reversible with better oral hygiene and regular dental cleanings.
- Mild periodontitis: If gingivitis is not treated, it progresses to this stage. Gums recede, forming pockets where plaque and bacteria gather. Some bone loss begins
- Moderate periodontitis: More bone loss occurs, leading to sore and tender gums. Ligaments and soft tissues supporting teeth continue to deteriorate.
- Severe periodontitis: Untreated periodontitis can reach this advanced stage. Significant bone loss may result in loose teeth and chronic bad breath due to infection.
The color of healthy gums can be different, like light pink in some people or darker pink and brown in others. Gums that are in good health feel strong to touch and wrap the teeth tightly.
With periodontitis, the gums are swollen or inflamed. Other symptoms may include:
- Sensitive gums that feel soft to the touch
- Easy to bleed gums
- Bad breath
- Gums that are reddish or purple
- Tooth decay
- Tooth loss
- Difficulty chewing
- Infection or pus along the teeth and gum line
- Spitting blood while using a toothbrush or dental floss
- A toothbrush that appears pink after brushing
- Gum recession, or the gums pulling away from the teeth
- Newly formed holes or gaps between the teeth
- Teeth that fit differently
If you notice any indications of gum disease, such as redness, pain, or bleeding in your gums, it is advisable to seek diagnosis and essential treatment from a healthcare provider promptly. Delaying action can lead to a faster progression of the infection, possibly necessitating more extensive interventions. The chances of reversing damage caused by periodontitis are higher when treatment is initiated early. It is generally recommended to adhere to the suggested schedule for regular dental check-ups.
The primary cause of periodontitis is inadequate dental hygiene. Plaque and tartar accumulation on the tooth surfaces harbor harmful bacteria, serving as the initial catalyst for the onset of periodontitis. These detrimental bacteria contribute to the erosion of the tooth-supporting structures, leading to infection, bone depletion, and ultimately, tooth loss. If left untreated, plaque has the potential to progress into periodontitis.
- Plaque builds up on the teeth: This is when the sugars and starches in the food mix with the bacteria that naturally exist in the mouth. Plaque is removed by brushing twice a day and flossing once a day, but it returns very rapidly.
- Plaque can solidify into tartar behind the gum line: If left on the teeth. The longer plaque and tartar remain on the teeth, the more harm they can cause because they are full of bacteria. Brushing and flossing will not get rid of the plaque, a professional dental cleaning is required. It takes more effort to get rid of tartar.
- Plaque can lead to gingivitis: It is when the gum tissue around the teeth’s base becomes irritated and swollen. Gingivitis can be fixed with professional help and proper oral care at home, but it must be treated promptly to prevent any bone damage. It is known as the least severe type of gum disease.
- Continual gum inflammation can lead to periodontitis: Persistent inflammation can burden the immune system and lead to other health issues. If left untreated, these deep infections result in the loss of gum tissue and bone, and one might eventually lose one or more teeth. It creates deep gaps between the gums and teeth. These gaps fill up with plaque, tartar, and bacteria, and they get even deeper as time goes on.
Numerous factors can elevate an individual’s susceptibility to developing periodontitis, including:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Genetics and family history
- Being overweight
- Hormonal changes in women and those who were born with a feminine gender preference, such as pregnancy or the use of birth control pills
- Using drugs for pleasure, such as vaping or smoking marijuana
- Immunosuppressive conditions such leukemia, HIV/AIDS, and cancer treatment
- Poor nutrition, especially a deficiency in vitamin C
- Associated diseases, like arthritis, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, COVID-19, and cardiovascular disease
- Some medications that alter gums or produce dry mouth