Periodontals: Understanding Gum Disease, Gingivitis & Beyond

Great oral health depends on more than simply the health of your teeth. Your periodontals have a strong effect on the health of your mouth and the rest of your body.

What are ‘periodontals’? The word literally means ‘around teeth’, and the term includes your gums and oral tissues surrounding the teeth.

Our mouths are full of bacteria, which develops into plaque that adheres itself to teeth. By brushing and flossing, you can reduce the plaque on your teeth, but any left behind will harden into tartar. Only your twice-annual dental cleaning appointment with your dentist can take care of this.

When plaque and tartar is not cleaned/removed, the result can be inflammation in your gums. This is called ‘gingivitis’. Although it sounds a bit terrifying, it’s actually just a mild form of gum disease that regular brushing, flossing, and cleaning with a dentist or hygienist can fix. You should certainly address it, though, since gingivitis can worsen into much more serious and damaging issues, as well as harming your overall health.

If gingivitis is untreated, your oral condition can advance to periodontitis – ‘inflammation around the tooth’. Inflammation develops into a very serious state where your gums separate from the tooth itself, and form infected pockets below the gum line. A combination of your body’s enzymes fighting the infection and the bacteria and toxins of the infection result in the break down of the bone in your teeth and jaw, and destruction of the tissues supporting your teeth. In advanced cases, your teeth may become loose and require removal.

Some things that may cause or encourage gum disease and/or periodontitis include smoking tobacco products, diabetes (since diabetics are at higher risk for developing infections), medications that reduce saliva flow, diseases and/or treatments that have negative effects on gum health (cancer and AIDS, for example), stress, and sometimes female hormonal changes.

How much at-risk are you for gum disease? Take this risk assessment test from the American Academy of Periodontology to find out.

For more information about gum diseases, or to schedule your regular dental cleaning appointment to prevent conditions like gingivitis, contact us! Mimi Smiles is your local provider for exceptional general dentistry, cosmetic work, TMJ, whitening, and periodontal treatment and services.

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com.

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