Knowing the state of your periodontal health is important. So, if you don't know, ask your dental professional. It is a good idea to know if you are in good periodontal health because periodontal disease and decay are the primary causes of adult tooth loss. But even more importantly, recent research has found a relationship between periodontal infection and more serious health problems such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, and preterm low birth weight babies.
What is Periodontal Disease?
The word "periodontal" literally means around the tooth. Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is a chronic bacterial infection that affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth. Periodontal disease can affect one tooth or many teeth. It begins when the bacteria in plaque (the sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth) causes the gums to become inflamed.
In the mildest forms of the disease, gingivitis, the gums redden, swell, and bleed easily. There is usually little or no discomfort. Gingivitis is often caused by inadequate oral hygiene. Gingivitis is reversible with professional treatment and good oral home care.
Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis. With time, plaque can spread and grow below the gum line. Toxins produced by the bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. The toxins stimulate a chronic inflammatory response in which the body in essence turns on itself, and the tissues and bone that support the teeth are broken down and destroyed. Gums separate from the teeth, forming pockets (spaces between the teeth and gums) that become infected. As the disease progresses, the pockets deepen and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed. Often, this destructive process has very mild symptoms. Eventually, teeth can become loose and may have to be removed.
The American Dental Association (ADA) web site has some excellent information on Periodontal Disease as well.
What Causes Periodontal Disease?
Plaque is the culprit, which means that without proper at home oral hygiene and regular dental visits, your risk clearly increases. However, even perfect oral hygiene isn’t enough to ward off periodontal disease in everyone. Other risk factors that are thought to increase the risk, severity and speed of development of periodontal disease include tobacco use, general health conditions, medications, stress, genetics, hormonal changes and poor nutrition.
Frequent comsumption of fatty foods and infrequent consumption of vegetables were associated with increased risk of periodontitis in overweight students, but in the underweight and normal weight students, eating habits had little effect on periodontal condition.
(Relationship between Eating Habits and Periodontal Condition in University Students. Tomofugi, T, et al. J. Periodontology Vol.82 No.12 Dec 2011