Periodontal disease is really a group of diseases with the same end results; inflammation of the gums, destruction of the periodontal ligament, loss of supporting bone and ultimately tooth loss.
Apart from oral hygiene, your periodontal health can also be affected by your immune system. The immune system is the body’s way of protecting itself against disease. One of the major defensive responses mediated by the immune system is inflammation of the gums, usually the first telltale sign of periodontal disease to be observed. This inflammation is actually the immune system at work, trying to isolate the disease-causing bacteria and prevent spread to other parts of the body. Defense cells get rid of the offending bacteria and promote the repair of damaged tissues.
Unfortunately, the body’s immune system can be influenced by a number of factors including:
- Genetic factors
- Compromised immunity (such as HIV/AIDS patients)
- Consuming certain medications (oral contraceptives, steroids, anticonvulsants, calcium channel blockers, and chemotherapy).
If any of these apply to you, it could mean that you need to be even more vigilant when it comes to your oral hygiene in order to maintain it and to avoid gum disease.
Signs and Symptoms of Periodontal Disease
As mentioned before, the first signs of periodontal disease usually begin with gingivitis; the gums appear reddened, slightly swollen and bleed when gently provoked by tooth brushing or flossing. It is often thought that brushing too hard causes bleeding gums — however, bleeding from the gum tissues is not normal and should be taken as a warning sign. Warning signs of gum disease include the following:
- Red, swollen or tender gums
- Bleeding while brushing and flossing
- Receding gums (exposing root surfaces)
- A change in how your teeth fit together when you bite
- Loose or separating teeth
- Pus between your gums and teeth
- Persistent bad breath
However, gum disease is often silent, meaning symptoms may not appear until an advanced stage of the disease but can be detected by your general dentist, even in the early stages, during routine and regular dental checkups.
Tartar, cavities and gum inflammation all need to be addressed in their early stages. It’s important to visit your dentist every six months for a dental check-up, as this will allow us to salvage your dental health without resorting to extraction or root canal therapy.