The term “periodontal” means “around the tooth”. Periodontal disease (also known as Periodontitis and Gum Disease) is a common inflammatory condition that affects the supporting and surrounding soft tissues of the tooth, and characterized by red, swollen and bleeding gums.
Plaque is a sticky film of food debris, bacteria and saliva. If plaque is not removed, it turns into calculus (tartar). When plaque and calculus are not removed, a bacterial infection develops that 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 treat.
Periodontal disease is a progressive condition that eventually leads to the destruction of the connective tissue and jawbone. As the infection progresses, it starts to burrow deeper into the tissue causing inflammation or irritation between the teeth and gums.
The natural response of the body is to destroy the infected tissue, which is why the gums appear to recede. The resulting pockets between the teeth deepen and, if no treatment is sought, the tissue that makes up the jawbone recedes, causing unstable teeth and eventual tooth loss.
The Leading Cause of Tooth Loss
Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults in the developed world, more than tooth decay by a 2-to-1 margin, and should always be promptly treated. Four out of five people have periodontal disease, and do not know it because the disease is usually painless in the early stages.
Not only is it the number one reason for tooth loss, research suggests that there may be a link between periodontal disease and other diseases such as, stroke, bacterial pneumonia, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and increased risk during pregnancy. Researchers are determining if inflammation and bacteria associated with periodontal disease affects these systemic diseases and conditions. Smoking also increases the risk of periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease is treatable but not curable. You will have this disease for the rest of your life. Left untreated, it destroys the bone that holds your teeth. The good news is that it is controllable and the key to controlling it begins with a thorough diagnosis, effective regular treatment and maintenance. Good oral hygiene, a balanced diet and regular dental visits can help reduce your risk of developing periodontal disease.
Assess Your Risk for Periodontal Disease
The American Academy of Periodontology provides a patient self-assessment tool that will help you see if you are at risk for having or developing periodontal disease. Please take a few moments to complete the short questionnaire.
Once your answers are submitted, a proprietary calculation determines whether you are at low, medium or high risk, and generates a report of your results. This Periodontal Disease Risk Score and the information contained in your report should not be construed as dental advice or as a substitute for a comprehensive evaluation and diagnosis by a qualified practitioner. Rather, this report is intended to help educate patients about common risk factors related to periodontal diseases, and to assist in the decision of when referral to a periodontist would be advisable.