Periodontitis, also known as, gumdisease or periodontal disease, begins with bacterial growth in the mouth and may end in tooth lose due to the destruction of tissue and bone that surrounds the teeth. Gingivitis, which is inflammation of the gum, usually begins before gum disease. When gingivitis is left untreated, it can advance to gum disease. In a person with gum disease, the inner layer of the gum and bone pull away from the teeth and form pockets. These small spaces between teeth and gums collect debris and can become infected. The body's immune system fights the bacteria as the plaque spreads and grows below the gum line. Plaque is the primary cause of gum disease, however, there are many other factors that contribute to gum disease.
Factors that contribute to gum disease
· Dry mouth: there are over 3,000 prescriptions and over the counter products that cause dry mouth. Saliva is needed to protect the teeth and gums and to cleanse the mouth throughout the day. When there is not enough saliva a patient’s risk of tooth decay and gum disease increases. Patients with dry mouth will be placed on products designed to help lubricate and hydrate the mouth to help lower their risk.
· Grinding: this puts force on the fibers that hold the teeth in place and stress on the jawbone. People that clench during the day put 200 lbs. per square inch of pressure on the supporting structures of the teeth and jaw. People that grind at night create 900 lbs per square inch. This causes all these supporting structures to break down and allow bacteria to enter the gums and jaw. A night guard is used to help prevent this.
· Nutrition: nutrition is crucial to a strong immune system. The new recommendation for daily requirements of fruits and vegetables is 8-12 servings per day. Bone loss in the mouth can be caused by high cholesterol in the diet, eating fatty foods, low calcium, low vitamin C and D, menopause, and stress. Getting the proper vitamins and supplements throughout the day is important not only for dental health but for general health as well. A family doctor can help recommend what types of vitamins a person should be taking to fit their needs.
· Herbal Supplements: herbs that start with the letter “G” have side effects, one of which is acting as a mild blood thinner. If a person has to take any of these supplements it is important to see a dentist or hygienist more often in a year to help manage this side effect and prevent gum disease from occurring.
· Sleep: it is recommended to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. People who get 6 hours or less are more susceptible to health problems and prone to infections. This means the body cannot fight the infection caused by gum disease as well.
· Stress: Stress is very harmful to general health. When a person is under stress the body produces cortisol, which affects inflammation. When someone is under a lot of stress they tend to not sleep well, eat well, or exercise. Stress also breaks down the immune system and prevents our body from fighting infection. A person under stress is 2 to 7 times more susceptible to get gum disease. Meditation and other stress reducing activities can help reduce stress.
· Drugs: this includes alcohol and illegal drugs. People who drink more than 5 alcoholic beverages per week increase their risk for gum disease by 30%. Illegal drug use can increase the risk by more than twenty times.
· Genetic: 30% of the population has the genetic gene for gum disease. These people have a 7 to 19 times increase in risk to develop gum disease by having this gene. These people tend have more bleeding form the gums and present with gum disease 20 years earlier in life.
· Hormones: this includes pregnancy, menopause, puberty, and menstruation. Hormonal changes cause and increase in gum inflammation and bleeding. It’s not understood the exact link between hormone changes and the gums.
· Aging: 75% to 85% of people 60 years old or older have gum disease.
· Communicable: the bacteria can be passed between parent and child, spouses, siblings, etc.
Unfortunately, gum disease has no cure but it is a treatable and manageable disease. It is important to have regular dental exams and cleanings to help limit these risk factors and prevent the start of gum disease. Oral hygiene is only a small part of battling gum disease and many of these factors are out of a person’s control. It’s important to not get discouraged when struggling with gum disease. With the help of a dentist and hygienist to get proper treatment the mouth can become healthy again.
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