What is it? Gingivitis? Periodontitis?
disease is a bacterial infection of the gums and bone supporting
the teeth. As masses of bacteria called plaque, build up on tooth
surfaces, at and below the gum line they cause inflammation of the
gums called gingivitis. When the infection spreads to the fibers
connecting the gums to the teeth and to the surrounding bone and
tooth ligaments it is called periodontitis. This eventually causes
gum abscesses and severe bone loss which results in loosening and
What are the risk factors? Or who gets it?
of the most significant risk factors for severe periodontal disease
is smoking. It increases the severity of the disease, the number
of teeth lost and the chance of failure of all treatments. There
are genetic susceptibility factors that help to explain why some
people do or do not develop periodontal disease. Genetic testing
and the significance it brings to treatment options is still controversial.
Those people who are under long term stress will also have more
bone and tooth loss. Poor oral hygiene and the lack of routine cleanings
and periodontal exams leads to breakdown and tooth loss as well.
My teeth and gums don't hurt me,
how can I have severe periodontal disease?
disease can progress without any warning signs, symptoms or pain.
Bleeding gums for example may be a sign of a simple gingivitis (gum
infection) or a severe periodontitis (bone infection with loss of
supporting bone). In many cases the first sign of a problem may
be looseness or drifting teeth. At this later stage the teeth may
be nearly hopeless to save.
I get check ups every six months. How can I have periodontal disease?
examinations and even check up x-rays are not enough to detect the
presence of gum disease. Only by a comprehensive periodontal evaluation
can any existing damage or infection be uncovered. A comprehensive
evaluation includes a probing of each tooth at six critical places,
recording the results at each place.
Can bacterial plaque that accumulates under the gum cause diseases
more serious than periodontal disease and tooth loss?
There is mounting evidence that bacterial gum infection may contribute
to heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and premature births to mothers
with gum disease. The fact is that the bacteria themselves can easily
enter the bloodstream, lodging in blood vessels and possibly other
organs. While the mechanisms of these changes is not fully understood
research continues to determine how strong the relationship is to
these diseases. Dr. Mayo the founder of the Mayo Clinic once stated
that, "Daily plaque control can add ten years to your life". He
may be right, especially when regular professional care is added
Is there a relationship between stress, periodontal disease and
is indeed a relationship. As stress increases so does the likelihood
for continuing breakdown of the bone that supports the teeth. That
is, an increase in the severity of periodontitis.
changes in the central nervous system that come with stress, affect
the pituitary gland and it in turn affects the adrenal glands. The
release of stress hormones from the adrenal can reduce or modify
the immune system and inflammation to increase gum disease activity.
stresses such as financial stress have been studied and those under
this type of stress had more gum attachment loss and supporting
bone loss than those that did not. But those people who had appropriate
coping behavior to the stress, did not have these ill effects. In
other words, if we can find healthy ways to cope with every day
stresses, our periodontal health can remain in tact. Therefore,
things like physical exercise, self relaxation, a positive attitude
and meditation or yoga will help save our teeth as well as our mental