Aside from cavities, gum disease or periodontal disease is the major oral health problem for adults and seniors. Its an inflammation of the gums caused by the accumulation of plaque and tartar. Plaque is an invisible and sticky film of bacteria that accumulates on the teeth. Plaque is produced through a combination of various bacteria, food particles and saliva. The largest concentration of plaque is found between the teeth and under the edges of gums. Over time, plaque turns into tartar, a hard granular substance that must be removed regularly
Periodontics is the branch that deals with the treatment of gum disease. The two main signs of early periodontal disease or gingivitis are the bleeding of gums when brushing and bad breath. Gums may also be red, swollen and tender to the touch. Untreated gingivitis can turn into periodontitis. At this stage, the bone supporting the teeth begins to deteriorate. Left untreated, the teeth become loose and have to be pulled out.
Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. Nearly 75% of adults suffer from gum problems of varying degrees during their lives. People who wear dentures are not immune to such diseases. Brushing teeth or dentures, daily flossing and regular visits to the dentist are still the best ways to prevent these diseases.
Other factors may also contribute to periodontal disease, including:
- Conditions that affect the immune system such as a malfunction of the thyroid gland, diabetes, pregnancy, and leukemia;
- Hereditary factors;
- Bad habits such as eating poorly, nail biting, clenching or grinding your teeth, tobacco use, and consuming too much sugar;
- Certain medications, including birth control pills and drugs
Diagnosis and Treatment
The dentist can diagnose and treat periodontal disease at an early stage. The dentist will forward intermediate and advanced cases to periodontists as required, and who are specialists in the treatment of periodontal disease.
Periodontal treatment aims to restore healthy gums. It usually involves the removal of plaque and tartar accumulated on the teeth, the flattening of roots, a procedure aimed at making the roots smooth after the removal of debris, and the scraping or elimination of plaque and inflamed gum tissue. In severe cases, it may be necessary to perform surgery to remove tartar housed in pockets that have formed between the gums and teeth.
Referenced from the lOrdre des dentistes du Québec web site
More and more research demonstrates links between periodontal diseases and other human diseases, the following articles (in English) are examples of the relationships that may exist between the treatment of gum disease and diabetes, and between the treatment of gum disease and atherosclerosis.
For additional information on this subject matter and for more information relating to gum problems, please visit the Canadian Academy of Periodontology web site.