Around 50% of U.S. adults have at least one area of periodontitis in their mouth.
Periodontal disease is an infection of the gums that causes breakdown of bone and eventually loosening of the teeth. The primary cause is bacterial plaque (the soft white film that accumulates at the gumline). This plaque causes an inflammatory response in the body that leads to bone loss. Plaque is found above and below the gumline and can harden into tarter or calculus. A patient’s genetics also plays a part in this disease.
Your bone and gum tissue should fit snugly around your teeth like a turtleneck around your neck. When you have periodontal disease, this supporting tissue and bone is destroyed, forming "pockets" around the teeth.
Over time, these pockets become deeper, providing a larger space for bacteria to live. As bacteria develop around the teeth, they can accumulate and advance under the gum tissue. These deep pockets collect even more bacteria, resulting in further bone and tissue loss. Eventually, if too much bone is lost, the teeth will need to be extracted.
Symptoms of periodontal disease include: Bleeding gums, swollen or red gums, soreness in the gums, pus around teeth or gums, looseness of teeth, bad breath, and gum recession. However, patients do not always have symptoms and usually have minimal pain.
Periodontal disease has been linked to diabetes and heart disease and is more prevalent in patients who smoke. There are a few different options for control of the disease, depending on its severity.
Gingivitis: Inflammation of the gums caused by bacterial plaque.
Periodontitis: Plaque induced inflammation that has progressed beyond the gums and caused bone loss around teeth.
Gum disease can be prevented by regular cleanings, good oral hygiene and control of systemic factors (diabetes, hypertension, smoking).
Flossing removes plaque and bacteria that you cannot reach with your toothbrush. If you don't floss, you are missing more than one-third of your tooth surface. Plaque is the main cause of gum disease. It is an invisible bacterial film that develops on your teeth every day.
Steps for flossing:
Brush your teeth after you floss - it is a more effective method of preventing tooth decay and gum disease. Use the Bass Technique for tooth brushing: hold the brush at a 45 degree angle towards your gums and brush in short strokes spending about 10 seconds on each group of 2-3 teeth. Total time should be 2 minutes.