Periodontal (gum) disease can also be referred to as periodontitis or periodontitis is a progressive disease which can eventually lead to the loss of teeth if left untreated. As a result of inflammation and irritation of the gingival tissues that surround and support the teeth, gum disease develops.  Inflammation is caused by toxins contained in plaque, which cause an ongoing bacterial infection.

In the case of the gingival infection, the bacteria colonize the gingival tissue and form deep pockets between the gums and the teeth.  As long as mild inflammation (gingivitis) is treated promptly by a periodontist, the effects of this inflammation can be turned around completely.  The gums and jawbone become destroyed in a matter of days if the bacterial infection is left untreated, which in turn leads to the loss of teeth as a result of periodontal disease.  It is possible for the bacteria from this infection to spread to other parts of the body via the bloodstream in some cases.

Listed below are some of the most common causes of gum disease

It is important to understand that genetic and environmental factors can contribute to the development of gum disease, and that in many cases taking preventative measures can reduce the risk of developing periodontitis significantly.

  • Having poor dental hygiene – Preventing dental disease at home starts with good oral hygiene and eating a healthy diet. The best way to prevent dental problems is to go to the dentist regularly and have your teeth examined, cleaned, and x-rayed.  In order to ensure and preserve the natural dentition and supporting bony structures, there has to be a combination of excellent home care and professional dental care.  The gums and bone around the teeth can be affected by bacteria and toxins if bacteria and calculus (tartar) around the teeth are not removed properly, resulting in gingivitis or periodontitis, which in extreme cases can lead to tooth loss.
  • Researches have shown that smoking and tobacco use is one of the most significant factors that contribute to the onset and progression of gum disease, especially for patients with a history of gum disease.  Smokers do not only experience a slower recovery and healing rate when it comes to the teeth, but they are also more likely to suffer from calculus (tartar) buildup on the teeth, deep pockets in the gingival tissue, as well as significant bone loss as a result of smoking.
  • The genetic predisposition to gum disease exists even if you practice rigorous oral hygiene routines. It is possible that as much as 30% of the population may suffer from a strong genetic predisposition to gum disease.  Individuals with a genetic predisposition to periodontal disease are six times more likely to develop this disease than individuals without such a predisposition.  In order to prevent the oral cavity from becoming infected, genetic tests can be used to determine susceptibility and early intervention can be performed.
  • Pregnancy and menopause – It is extremely important to brush and floss your teeth regularly while you are pregnant. A hormonal change in the body can cause the gum tissue to become more sensitive, making them more susceptible to gum disease as a result of the increased sensitivity.
  • Grinding teeth – The clenching or grinding of the teeth can lead to significant damage to the supporting tissue surrounding the teeth, as well as the supporting bone structure.  Usually, grinding one’s teeth is related to a “bad bite” or a misalignment of one’s teeth as a result of a bad bite.  The additional destruction of gingival tissue that occurs due to grinding can accelerate the progression of gum disease in the case of someone who is already suffering from gum disease.
  • Prescription drugs – It has been shown that many drugs, including oral contraceptives, heart medicines, antidepressants and steroids, can adversely affect the condition of the teeth and gums; thus making them more susceptible to gum disease in the future.  The use of steroids promotes gingival overgrowth, which increases swelling and facilitates the colonization of bacteria in the gum tissue.
  • Chronic stress and poor diet – There is considerable evidence that stress weakens the immune system’s ability to fight off disease, so bacteria may possibly be able to overcome the body’s defense system in the event of an infection.  As a result of poor diet or malnutrition, the body is also less able to fight periodontal infections, which in turn has a negative effect on the health of the gums.
  • Diabetes and other underlying medical conditions – Gum disease can be intensified or accelerated by many medical conditions, including respiratory disease, heart disease, arthritis, osteoporosis and other conditions that can accelerate its onset and progression.  Due to diabetes, the body’s ability to utilize insulin is impaired, making it more difficult to control and cure gum disease.

The treatment of gum disease

A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in treating gum disease and placing dental implants as well.  A periodontist is skilled at performing effective cleaning procedures in deep pockets, such as scaling and root planing. In addition, he or she can prescribe antibiotics and antifungal medications to treat infection and halt the progression of the disease.

It is possible for the periodontist, if there is tooth loss, to perform tissue grafts in order to promote natural tissue regeneration, and to place dental implants if one or more teeth are missing.  A periodontist can restore an even and aesthetically pleasing appearance to your smile in cases where gum recession creates a “toothy” appearance, resulting in a “toothy” looking smile.

It is crucial to prevent periodontal disease in order to preserve the natural dentition in the future.  The causes of gum disease need to be addressed and discussed with your dentist in order to prevent the onset, progression, and recurrence of periodontal disease in the future.

Please consult your dentist if you have any questions or concerns regarding the causes or treatment of gum disease.

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