Periodontitis is an infection that causes your gums and bone to pull away from your teeth, possibly leading to tooth loss. It’s usually the result of poor oral hygiene allowing bacteria to get below the gumline and solidify there. Periodontitis is especially serious since it can also affect other aspects of your health. Different treatment options are available, with laser therapy being one of the most effective.
What is periodontitis?
Periodontitis is an advanced form of gum disease that damages the soft tissue of the mouth. The early stages of gum disease are known as gingivitis, which presents itself with redness and inflammation (swelling) of the gums. Inflammation is a sign that the body is fighting off an infection. In the case of gum disease, your body is fighting an infection in your gums.
If left untreated, gingivitis will eventually develop into periodontitis. At this stage, the bacteria will cause your gums to pull away from your teeth. The infection will begin to eat away at the tissue and bone that supports your teeth, ultimately resulting in the loss of teeth.
The risk of periodontitis is higher than many people may realize. According to the National Library of Medicine, an estimated 47.2% of adults aged 30+ have some form of periodontal disease. The risk actually gets higher as you get older, with 70.1% of adults aged 65+ having some form of the disease.
Statistics like these only reinforce the importance of basic oral hygiene. Make sure that you’re:
- Brushing for two minutes, twice per day
- Flossing at least once per day after eating
- Going to regular dental appointments
These three steps go a long way in preventing gum disease and periodontitis.
How Periodontitis Develops
Like gingivitis, periodontitis is the result of plaque and tartar buildup on your teeth and below the gumline. Plaque develops when the sugar and starches in your food merge with the bacteria already existing in your mouth. Failure to brush, floss, and see your dentist allows plaque to harden into tartar, which has to be removed by a registered dental hygienist since brushing and flossing won’t do the trick.
Tartar that has made its way below the gumline is also known as calculus. Once there, the tartar continues to collect harmful bacteria. Bacteria covered tartar is what causes the irritation and inflammation that signals developing gum disease.
It’s at this point that periodontitis begins to develop. If left untreated, inflammation of the gums causes “pockets” to form between your teeth and gums which are filled with:
These pockets become deeper and deeper as time goes on, compounding the problem as the pockets are filled with more unhealthy substances.
The end result are infections deep within the gums that lead to a loss of tissue and bone. This can lead to loose or even lost teeth, as well as other health complications seemingly unrelated to your oral health.
Complications from Periodontitis
Periodontitis can lead to more serious health complications since the harmful bacteria can eventually work their way into your bloodstream. This can include:
- Respiratory disease
- Coronary artery disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
Periodontitis can also worsen problems related to diabetes due to increased sugar and starches in the mouth.
Another surprising connection may be to Alzheimer’s disease. According to a 2019 study, a higher amount of periodontal-related symptoms were found in subjects that also had symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
According to Dr. Richard Kao, president of the American Academy of Periodontology:
Periodontists have long known that a healthy mouth contributes to a healthy body, and research has suggested an association between periodontal disease and dementia conditions, such as Alzheimer’s. These recent findings present strong evidence on how periodontal disease can impact the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease and should highlight how crucial it is to manage periodontal disease, especially in older adults or individuals who have increased risk for dementia.
It should be made clear that there are many other factors when it comes to developing Alzheimer’s disease. With that said, this new connection only goes to show how the basics of oral hygiene play an important role in your overall health.
Periodontitis is a severe form of gum disease that can eventually lead to tooth loss. Fortunately, it can be prevented with regular brushing, flossing, and dental appointments. If left untreated, it can affect other conditions such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Periodontitis can’t be reversed, but it can be treated with different types of therapy.
Are you concerned that you have periodontitis? Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our dentists!
We believe everyone deserves to have a smile they can be proud of, and we provide that to our patients using the latest techniques in comfortable dentistry. My Family Dentistry is open Monday through Thursday and every other Friday. Give us a call at (865) 947-6453 or you can schedule an appointment online.