Periodontitis involves the inflammation of the gum tissues. If not managed, the condition can extend to the jawbone. This can reduce its ability to support the teeth. Over time, gum disease can lead to the loss of the tooth. In some cases, the tooth loss can happen very fast; such as what happens in localized aggressive periodontitis. Prevention remains one of the most important ways to manage gum disease. This starts with an understanding of the causes of periodontitis.
Causes of Periodontitis
The main cause of periodontitis or gum disease is the proliferation of bacteria on the tooth surface. This is almost always secondary to poor dental hygiene.
There are many species of bacteria that reside in the human oral cavity. When allowed to grow and multiply, these microorganisms can produce an acidic substance we call dental plaque. The acidic nature of the substance will start to degrade the tooth enamel.
If this substance is not removed, minerals will deposit within the dental plaque. This produces tartar. This thicker layer encourages more bacteria to grow and proliferate. Their proliferation stimulates the cells of the immune system. In turn this results in inflammation which can further destroy gum tissues.
Over time, the inflammation disrupts the attachment of the gum tissues to the tooth’s root. This leads to the formation of a periodontal pocket. Other bacteria will go into this periodontal pocket and release harmful toxins. These substances damage the teeth, the gums, and the bone that support both teeth and gums.
One can say that the real cause of periodontitis is poor dental hygiene. If one observes meticulous care of the teeth and gums, then bacteria will never accumulate on the tooth surface. They will also not be able to produce plaque. Without plaque, minerals will not get deposited to form tartar.
Risk Factors of Gum Disease
While bacteria are the most common culprit for gum disease, there are factors that can increase one’s risk of periodontitis. One of them is genetics. A good example of this will be localized aggressive periodontitis. This is a type of gum disease that runs in a particular family. The condition begins in childhood and causes the very rapid deterioration of the jawbone. By the time the child reaches puberty, it is possible that he or she may have already lost a tooth.
People with compromised immune systems are also at risk of developing periodontal disease. An example of this is necrotizing periodontal disease. This is a type of gum disease that is often seen in people with malnutrition, leukemia, or HIV infection. People receiving cancer treatment are also at risk for this kind of periodontitis.
Other risk factors can include obesity, diabetes, and smoking. Hormonal changes can also make gum tissues more sensitive. Pregnant or menopausal women are at an increased risk of periodontal disease because of these hormonal changes. Some medications can also affect the flow of saliva. This can promote the proliferation of bacteria in the mouth.
Good oral hygiene remains one of the most important activities that people can do to manage periodontitis. This involves frequent brushing of the teeth to help remove bacteria and prevent the formation of plaque. Flossing can augment regular brushing. There are certain areas of the teeth that toothbrush bristles may not be able to reach. There may also be some plaques that toothbrushing alone may not be able to remove.
Getting a professional dental cleaning can help remove tartar buildup. Dentists can also provide deep cleaning of periodontal pockets. This will help get rid of bacteria that may be present in these gaps. Cleaning the pockets will allow the gum tissue to heal. Root planing and scaling can also remove more stubborn tartar. Germs tend to accumulate in these spots that ordinary toothbrushing and flossing cannot remove.
For persistent periodontitis, the dentist may prescribe an appropriate antibacterial agent. This can come in the form of a pill, a gel, or a mouthwash.
For persistent inflammation in inaccessible areas, surgery may be required. Flap surgery can remove deposits under the gums. The dentist will also clean the roots of the teeth. Bone grafting is often indicated in people with bone loss because of periodontitis.
Bacteria are the main cause of periodontitis. Poor oral hygiene can accelerate the inflammation of the gum tissues. Other risk factors can also predispose an individual to periodontitis.