Periodontal disease

Periodontal disease is an inflammation and degeneration of the bone and gum structures that support the teeth. It starts when a bacterial infection attacks the gums, bone and ligaments that support the teeth nnd hold them in the jaw. The initial damage is painless and a person may not be aware of the disease until severe damage is done, making tooth loss inevitable. The early stages of periodontal disease are seen in as many as 50 per cent of adults.

By age 35, about 75 per cent of people are affected; and by age 65, as many as 90 per cent suffer from the disease. Even children aged as young as five or six can have signs of periodontal disease.

Periodontal diseaseCauses of periodontal disease

Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria in plaque - the sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on teeth. The bacteria create toxins that irritate the gums, causing breakdown of gum tissue. As periodontal disease develops, the gums become detached from the teeth. The tooth roots are then susceptible to decay and sensitive to cold and touch. As the disease progresses further, it becomes more painful; and in the advanced stages, the supporting bone is destroyed, causing the teeth to become loose and fall out.

Gingivitis, in which the gums become red, swollen, tender and likely to bleed easily, almost always precedes periodontal disease but does not always lead to it. In gingivitis, small gaps open up giving bacteria access to teeth and gums. Regular brushing and flossing can help to treat gingivitis and thus lessen the risk of periodontal disease. Smoking, poor dental work, some medications, clenching or grinding teeth, and diseases such as diabetes may contribute to periodontal disease.

Prevention of periodontal disease

Regular dental check ups and good dental hygiene may help to prevent periodontal disease. A healthy diet also plays a role in slowing the progress of the disease. Avoiding simple sugars, eating plenty of whole grains and other high fiber foods, and thoroughly chewing food are important preventive measures.

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