When gum disease has not been properly treated or managed, it can develop into an advanced form of periodontal condition known as periodontitis. While periodontitis shares similar root causes with more benign forms of gum disease such as gingivitis, is has a more profound impact on the teeth. Left untreated, the condition is known to loosen and even detach teeth from the socket.
Periodontitis occurs due to an inflammation of the periodontium – the tissues, periodontal ligament and alveolar bone that surround the teeth. It can lead to the infectious destruction of the periodontium.
Besides causing physical damage to your teeth, the disease may even lead to medical complications, including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, myocardial infection, renal failure and atheroscelerosis.
What causes periodontitis?
Periodontitis is caused by the formation of plaque on the teeth. When plaque hardens and turns into tartar (calculus), it can no longer be removed by brushing and flossing.
Over time, plaque and calculus will play host to gum-infecting bacteria, thus causing gingivitis – or what is known as inflammation of the gums. When the gum disease progresses further, it becomes an infection around the tooth, which is the stage of disease known as periodontitis.
Certain bacteria produce toxins that erode the bone and gums. This causes deep pockets to form between the teeth and gums. These bacteria also enter the bloodstream, where they can spread to other parts of the body.
The two main types of periodontitis are chronic and aggressive.
Chronic periodontitis basically refers to the chronic inflammation of the periodontal tissues. Since this is generally a painless yet progressive disease, it is hard to detect it in the early stages. That is why dentists sometimes recommend regular quarterly periodontal check-ups for those with gum disease, to maintain the stability of the disease.
In adults, periodontitis is usually caused by poor glycemic control or fluctuating sugar levels – hence is often a closely monitored dental ailment amongst diabetics. It can lead to a vicious cycle whereby periodontitis worsens the glycemic control of the body. This makes it harder for a diabetic patient to recover from diabetes or to live a controlled lifestyle.
Chronic periodontitis has few symptoms in the initial stages. As it progresses, common symptoms include: Reddened gums that bleed while brushing teeth; swelling in gums; receding gums; deep pockets between teeth and gums; loosened teeth; and bad breath.
Depending on the severity of the condition, treatment can come in many forms, including surgical and non-surgical methods, including: Scaling and root planing; full mouth disinfection; guided tissue regeneration; and enamel matrix derivative.
In some ways, aggressive periodontitis is similar to chronic periodontitis but harder to treat and maintain. It is characterised by rapid loss of periodontal tissues or rapid bone loss. Although it employs similar treatment protocols to the chronic form, aggressive periodontitis treatment involves a higher chance of using extensive surgical debridement paired with strong antibiotics.
This type of periodontal condition tends to affect younger patients – i.e. under the age of 30 – as compared to chronic periodontitis, although there are no fixed upper age limits. It is characterised by rapid loss of periodontal tissues.
Aggressive periodontitis can be further classified into localised or generalised forms, as well as mild, moderate, or severe.
While regular gum diseases such as gingivitis can be eliminated by good oral hygiene and professional cleaning, periodontitis may require several trips to the dentist’s office.
Dentists generally treat periodontitis by removing the accumulated plaque and calculus – both on the enamel and below the gum line. This may involve scaling and debridement to completely eliminate the plaque and tartar stuck below the gum line.
If you are experiencing symptoms of periodontitis, you should contact your dentist for a check-up. Early detection can mean save you from making multiple dental trips and needless treatments – even surgical ones.
Do your gums bleed after flossing or brushing? Are your gums getting swollen or darker? It may be time to visit your Canberra Dentist.
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