Gum disease is painless but can be very destructive to the bone that supports our teeth over time. Many of our parents’ generation lost their teeth to the final stages of this disease which they called pyorrhoea.
Gum disease is caused by two things. The reactions of an individual’s immune system to bacterial toxins and the quantity of bacterial toxins in the gums. Bacteria that are not cleaned away daily by flossing and brushing produce the toxins. Gum disease is a common disease, but as individual immune systems vary, not everyone is vulnerable.
The first sign of gum disease is bleeding that is triggered by light touch activities such as brushing or flossing. If the disease is limited to areas between the teeth, then the bleeding may only be noticed when the dentist screens for pocketing using light probing. As the disease progresses the gums may become red, puffy or sore, and pus may ooze from a gum when it is pressed.
Tartar or Calculas is a hard deposit that forms on teeth. It forms when the bacterial layer (plaque) is left for a period of time. This gives an opportunity for minerals from the saliva to deposit over it. With time there develops a hardened mixture of mineral and both live and dead bacteria called tartar or calculas. This deposit holds the bacterial toxins against the gums, maximising their effect on the body. Because tartar is hard it can no longer be removed by brushing or flossing but requires detailed removal called scaling or root planing
In the early stages gum disease is easily reversible/ curable by
- removing the accumulated bacteria and tartar by scaling- hygienist services
- ensuring a good home care program –hygienist instruction
This reduces the level of bacterial toxins and allows the immune system to return to normal.This early, reversible stage of gum disease is termed gingivitis.
If gum disease is not treated, the body dissolves the bone and ligament next to the bacterial toxins. The gap left is called a pocket. This gap or pocket is hard to clean, and a vicious cycle may begin. It is harder to remove bacteria from a pocket and therefore the bacteria are more likely to sit, undisturbed causing more bone loss and inflammation. This more severe form is termed periodontitis
Once lost, bone will only regenerate a little leaving a permanent reduction. The damage is no longer reversible, but it can be stopped from getting worse, in all but the most severe forms.
- Hygienist care; careful and detailed removal of bacteria and tartar from the difficult to reach pockets is required
- Conscientious home care to prevent toxin build up. Brushing flossing and perhaps interdental bushes.
- Regular monitoring. So that no further bone is lost, the hygienist will need to monitor the pockets regularly to ensure the disease is not reactivating and progressing.
Sometimes antimicrobial therapies such as antibiotics and topical systems may also be required and in extreme cases referral to a specialist may be needed.
If left untreated, periodontitis can lead to gum and bone recession, abscesses and eventual tooth loss.
Although it is hard to establish a causal link, studies have linked to more serious conditions including, heart and cardiovascular disease, diabetes as well as respiratory conditions.
If you feel that you may be suffering from gum disease at any stage, contact a member at our friendly team to arrange a consultation.