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What are the Causes of Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal (gum) disease, also known as periodontitis and periodontal disease, is a serious disease which can lead to tooth loss. Gum disease starts with the irritation and infection of the gingival tissues which support and surround the teeth. The toxins found on the plaque are the cause of the of the inflammation and can cause this continual bacterial infection.

The bacterial inflammation spreads in the gingival tissue and deep pockets and forms between the gum and teeth. If treated soon by a periodontist, the results of this modest inflammation (gingivitis) can be reversed. However, if the bacterial inflammation is permited to continue, periodontal disease can start to break down the gums and the surrounding jawbone; leading to tooth loss. At times, the bacteria from this inflammation may infiltrate to other areas of the body by way of the bloodstream.

Common Causes of Gum Disease.

There are environmental and genetic factors which result in the beginning of gum disease, and in most cases the risk of onset periodontitis can be completely lowered by taking steps that are preventative.

What are some of the most common indicators of gum disease?

  • Improper dental hygiene - Preventing dental disease begins at home with excellent dental hygiene and a nutricious diet. Prevention also means continual dental visits which include cleanings, exams, and x-rays. Along with excellent home care and regular dental visits, proper care will preserve and ensure the natural dentition and nearby bony features. When calculus (tartar) and bacteria are not removed, the bones and gum surrounding the teeth become infiltrated by bacterial toxins and may result in periodontitis, or gingivitis, which can possibly lead to loss of teeth.
  • Tobacco use – Research has shown that tobacco and smoking use is one of the prime factors in the progression and  growth of  gum disease. In addition to smokers having a reduced healing rate and recovery, smokers are more prone to suffer from tartar (calculus) in deep pockets or in the gingival tissue, build up on teeth, and significant bone loss.
  • Genetic predisposition – Despite using routine oral hygiene habits, as much as 25% of the population can have a strong genetic leaning to gum disease. These individuals are 6 times more prone to develop periodontal disease than others with no genetic predisposition. Genetic tests may be used in early intervention to determine susceptibilty and can be performed to keep the oral cavity healthy.
  • Pregnancy and menopause – Regular brushing and flossing is essential during pregnancy. Hormonal changes experienced by the body can lead to the gum tissue to becoming  more tender, making them more prone to gum disease.
  • Poor diet and chronic stress – Stress decreases the overall immune system to avoid disease, which indicates that bacterial infections may at times overcome the body's defense system. Malnutrition and poor diet may also lower the body's ability to withstand periodontal infections, in addition to adversely affecting the health of the gums.
  • Diabetes and underlying medical issues – Many medical conditions can speed up or intensify the progression and onset of gum disease including heart disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, and respiratory disease. Diabetes interferes with the body's natural tendency to use insulin which leads to difficulty in curing and controlling the bacterial infection in the gums.
  • Grinding teeth – The grinding and gnashing of the teeth can rapidly damage the nearby tissue around the teeth. Clenching one's teeth is usually associated with the misalignment of the teeth. When a person is dealing with gum disease, the added breakdown of gingival tissue due to clenching may speed up the continuation of the disease.
  • Medication – Many pharmaceuticals including heart medicines, steroids, anti-depressants and contraceptive pills affect the complete state of the gums and teeth; making them more prone to gum disease. The use of steroids leads to gingival enlargement, which allows bacteria to multiply in the gum tissue and allows swelling to be more commonplace.

How do we treat Gum Disease?

Specialists (Periodontists) are totally focused on the treatment of the placement of dental implants and gum disease. A periodontist, or a trained dental hygienist, can perform excellent cleaning procedures in deep pockets such as root planing and scaling, and also prescribe antifungal and antibiotic drugs to arrest infection and stop the progression of the disease.

In situations involving tooth loss, the periodontist is trained to promote natural tissue regeneration and perform tissue grafts, and place dental implants if a tooth or multiple teeth are missing. Where gum recession results in a "toothy" looking smile, the periodontist can reshape the tissue to make an ideal and aesthetically looking appearance.

Preventing periodontal disease is esential in monitoring the ideal dentition. Addressing the causes of gum disease and discussing them with Dr. Braithwaite can help contain the progression, onset, and recurrence of periodontal disease.

If you have any concerns or questions about the treatments or causes dealing with gum disease, please ask Dr. Braithwaite or a member of his staff.