Unless you regularly open bottles using your teeth or brush with cotton candy, the biggest threat to your long-term oral health is gum disease, also referred to as periodontal disease.
A chronic infection, gum disease attacks the tissue and underlying bone structure that help to support our teeth. Just like a house infested with termites, when this foundation becomes weakened it threatens to collapse the entire structure. For our oral health, gum disease can permanently alter how we eat, chew, speak and look.
Fortunately, early stage gum disease – commonly referred to as gingivitis – can be easily treated and reversed when spotted early. However, when gingivitis progresses unchecked, it can advance into the far more serious periodontitis, a condition that can lead to permanent tooth loss.
So you have a better understanding of the different stages of gum disease, let’s take a closer look at the two biggest threats our oral health can face.
The Difference Between Gingivitis and Periodontitis
While gingivitis typically proceeds periodontitis, we should mention that not all cases of gingivitis progress to the next level.
During early stage gingivitis, the bacteria in plaque begins to buildup in the mouth. Plaque – a sticky biofilm – clings to the surface of our teeth where it uses the sugars we consume to produce harmful acids. While these acids commonly contribute to the development of tooth decay and cavities, they can also irritate gum tissue.
Irritation from plaque can cause our gums to become inflamed and to bleed easily, especially after brushing and flossing. Even though our gum tissue may be irritated, red, swollen and bleeding, no permanent damage has occurred at this point. Our teeth remain firmly planted in their sockets, and the tissue and bone structure that hold them in place remains healthy and strong.
When gingivitis is left untreated – which happens when you don’t receive regular dental care – it can begin to advance into periodontitis.
Patients dealing with periodontitis have the inner layer of the gum and bone begin to separate away from the base of their teeth as pockets begin to form. These tiny spaces along the gum line become prime areas for the collection of food debris and bacteria. As a result, they commonly become infected. In response, the body’s immune system attempts to fight back against the infection as plaque continues to spread beneath the gum line.
Poisons or toxins – produced by the bacteria in plaque – begin to breakdown the connective tissue and bone that would normally hold our teeth into their sockets. As periodontitis continues to progress, the pockets begin to deepen and more gum tissue and bone structure are destroyed. When this occurs, teeth lose the support that helped anchor them in place so they become loose, before permanent tooth loss eventually occurs.
Periodontitis ranks as the leading cause of permanent tooth loss in adults.
The Causes of Gum Disease
While plaque ranks as the primary cause of gum disease, there are a few other factors that can contribute, including:
- Hormonal changes. Hormone changes that occur during times such as puberty, pregnancy and menopause can all contribute to the development of gum disease.
- Genetics. Some individuals have a genetic predisposition for the development of gum disease.
- Smoking. Individuals who smoke experience increased plaque growth combined with a weakened immune system.
While the factors above can all contribute the development of gingivitis, by far the most common reason patients develop gum disease is a lack of oral hygiene and preventative dental care.
Brushing and flossing daily help to remove plaque deposits from the surface of our teeth and along the gum line. Failure to properly brush and floss daily allow plaque to buildup, leading to the conditions described earlier.
Regular dental care provides our team at Impressions Dental the chance to spot gum disease early on while still easily treatable. By skipping visiting the dentist, you don’t receive the additional level of protection provided by the care provided by our dentists and team of dental hygienists.
Don’t let gum disease ruin your smile. Know your risk and take the precautions needed to avoid this terrible disease by scheduling your next appointment with the team at Impression Dental today!