Periodontitis / Gum Disease

Periodontitis is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gums and bone that support the teeth. Initiated by infection of the tissues that surround the teeth (gums, bone and fibers), the resultant inflammatory response leads to the loss of bone and soft tissues. The infection and inflammation results in progressive destruction and produces both local and systemic effects.

Local Effects of Periodontitis

The most common local effect secondary to the uncontrolled loss of the supporting structures is the loss of your teeth. This is accompanied by the loss of bone adjacent to the tooth. Tooth replacement is then very difficult since adjacent teeth are also affected, creating a domino effect in that the adjacent teeth become weaker due to the spreading bone loss. This compromises the ultimate esthetic result achievable when trying to replace the missing teeth because of the shrinkage or loss of bone and the weakened surrounding teeth.

Other common consequences of periodontitis include:

  • tooth looseness,
  • discomfort on chewing,
  • bad breath and
  • large black unattractive triangular spaces  between the teeth.

While these are not life threatening changes, gum disease is now known to have a correlation with some serious diseases.

Systemic Effects of Periodontitis

There are significant scientific studies suggesting that periodontitis may be a risk factor for a number of systemic diseases that have an inflammatory basis. These include:

  • cardiovascular disease,
  • cerebrovascular disease,
  • respiratory diseases,
  • diabetes, and
  • adverse pregnancy outcomes.

These associations are believed to result from systemic dissemination of the periodontal bacteria or an increase in the inflammatory mediators that affect the cells and tissues of the various involved systems.

What can You do to Avoid Periodontitis?

Spending a few minutes flossing each day will benefit your health in multiple ways. New research links daily flossing to longer, healthier life. It helps prevent periodontal disease and its huge risk factors for heart disease and others. A recent Harvard study found that flossing is one of the most significant factors contributing to long life. "Daily flossing keeps our gums healthy and decreases risk for inflammation (called gingivitis).Gingivitis is a form of chronic inflammation and leads to the leakage of inflammatory substances into our bloodstream that directly contribute to buildup of blockages in our blood vessels including blood vessels that feed the heart and brain. This is why there is a link between gum disease and heart attacks and strokes." says Dr.Thomas Perl, one of the principal researchers on the study and director of the New England Centenarian Study at Boston University Medical Center.

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