What is gum disease, periodontal disease and what causes them?

When you don’t brush your teeth for a while, you will notice a yellowish sticky paste that accumulates on them. This material looks like food debris, but it’s actually a film of bacteria which forms on the surface of the teeth and gums every day. Many of these bacteria are harmless. But others happily munch away at the same food you’re eating and then excrete toxins and enzymes. Bacteria thrive in the plaque environment and multiply until they account for nearly 100% of the mass of the plaque. This is why it’s important to remove it.

When your body notices the toxins, it mounts a defense against them by creating lots of new little blood vessels in the area to fight of the infection. The new blood vessels make the gums look red and swollen. Then the inflammation makes the blood vessel walls fragile and the gums bleed easily. Things become even more complicated when plaque absorbs calcium and other inorganic components from the saliva and forms tartar.

Tartar is the hard grey material that can be found on the teeth close to the gums or even inside the gums and between the teeth usually spotted in areas like the lingual side of lower front teeth or the lateral (bucal) side of upper molars. The presence of tartar makes hygiene even more difficult and irritates further the gums. Tartar can only be removed by a dentist or hygienist through scaling.

This first stage of gum disease is called gingivitis, and it is easily reversed by simply cleaning the teeth thoroughly once a day. But gum disease is painless, and many people are unaware that they have it (most adults do have some degree of gum disease). As it progresses, the bone which anchors the teeth in the jaw is lost, making the teeth loose. Now, this is called a periodontal disease or Periodontitis. If this is not treated, the teeth may eventually become mobile and eventually will have to be removed because of the severe inflammation and pain.

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