Periodontal disease, which is commonly referred to as gum disease, is a serious health condition that affects millions of Americans. Most people typically do not show symptoms of gum disease until they are in their thirties or forties. While men are more susceptible to periodontal disease, women can also be afflicted with the condition.
Periodontitis, the most severe form of gum disease, is usually preceded by gingivitis, which is the inflammation of the gums. If left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss as well as damage to the surrounding tissue.
The cause of gingivitis is believed to be the buildup of plaque on the teeth. This sticky film is composed mostly of bacteria that interact with the sugars and starches in food. While brushing and flossing can remove plaque, it reforms within 24 hours. If the plaque remains on the teeth for more than a few days, it can harden into tartar, or calculus, below the gum line. The mineral content of saliva can also create tartar. The tartar makes it more difficult to remove plaque as the tarter acts as a repository for bacteria.
Brushing and flossing cannot remove tartar. It requires a professional dental cleaning. The longer that the tartar remains on the teeth, the more damage it will cause.
In its initial stages, tartar irritates and inflames the gingiva, the portion of the gum that forms around the base of the teeth. Known as gingivitis, this condition is the mildest form of gum disease. Ongoing gingivitis eventually causes pockets to develop between the teeth and gums that fill with bacteria, plaque and tartar. The bacteria secrete endotoxins, a byproduct of their metabolism, which further inflames the gums.
Over time, the pockets can become deeper and accumulate more bacteria that will eventually spread beneath the gum line. These deep infections can cause the loss of bone and tissue that support the teeth, which results in the loss of one or more teeth. In addition to poor oral hygiene, risk factors include smoking, hormonal changes and genetic susceptibility. Certain medications and diseases like AIDS and diabetes also increase the risk of developing gum disease.
Swollen and bleeding gums are an early sign of a gum infection that can spread if left untreated. The loss of bone and gum tissue loosens teeth that eventually fall out or require extraction. Gum disease can also affect overall health.
In addition to practicing good oral hygiene, make sure your child gets regular professional teeth cleanings at Ashburn Children’s Dentistry in order to prevent gum disease. Our team of professionals can clean parts of the teeth that may be inaccessible to floss and a toothbrush. They can also remove plaque and tartar that cause gingivitis and periodontitis. Professional cleaning is particularly important for individuals who wear braces or other dental appliances. Contact our office in Ashburn today to schedule an oral examination and/or a cleaning for your child.