Periodontal Disease or Gum Disease is a common condition affecting about 47% of the population and has been present for millennia. Early humans also suffered from this debilitating condition.
There are usually no symptoms like pain despite the fact that the bone and ligaments holding teeth are slowly melting or literally ‘rotting’ away as part of inflammation.
There are a few known disease causing bacteria that are present in all mouths such as P gingivalis, P Intermedia, and A actinomycetemcomitans. They are responsible for causing Periodontitis in susceptible individuals. Susceptibility to Periodontal Disease is largely genetically determined. In other words, if your parents, grandparents or the family in the ancestral line had Periodontal Disease, you are more likely to get the disease. There are also modifying conditions including habits, emotional stress, medications and diseases which affect Periodontal disease, for example, diet, oral hygiene, smoking, medications such as steroids or other immunoregulatory medication, and diseases like Diabetes mellitus.
Teeth supporting structures are the bone, ligaments and gingiva (gums). The bone in the jaws is no different to bone elsewhere in the body and this disease is unique in that there is loss of bone or the bone literally ‘disappears’ as part of inflammation. Teeth become ‘long in the tooth’ with receding gums. They also can become loose and also show signs of bleeding gums. On occasions, the gums bleed, there is bad breath and dark spaces develop between teeth.
The tooth supporting ligaments have blood vessels and nerves, which help sustain the supporting ‘cushion’ and also provides very important information when chewing food as to the optimal amount of pressure the jaws need to apply to help crush different types of food.
When inflammation occurs in the bone and ligaments in Periodontal Disease, it must be noted that the inflammatory chemicals also enter the bone marrow and the blood vessels in the inflamed area and thus enter the blood circulation. Research is in progress studying how Periodontitis affects the circulation to the Heart, Brain, and Lungs. Since blood vessels are potentially affected in terms of artherosclerosis, the risks to the critical organs such as the Heart and Brain exist. This is in terms of possibly aggravating Cardiovascular disease or Cerebrovascular disease leading to potential Heart Attacks or Stroke, respectively.
There is mounting evidence that in some women, due to the increased severity of Periodontal Disease and the raised concentration of certain chemicals in the inflammation, it can lead to uterine contraction and either spontaneous abortions (miscarriages) or preterm low birth weight infants (potential developmental issues).
There is known evidence that patients suffering from Diabetes mellitus have a more severe form of inflammation than patients who are not. It is also noted that when Periodontitis is treated, it also leads to stabilization of Periodontal Disease.
A Periodontal examination at your Dentist, Hygienist or Periodontist will help diagnose this condition. Early treatment will help save teeth. Being a painless condition, it is best to have it checked professionally. Special xrays are requested to see the state of the supporting bone. Request a Periodontal Examination and save your teeth from the ravages of Periodontal Disease.