Gum disease is surprisingly common. The reason for this is simple: Our mouths are a haven for bacteria, and at any given time, we have more than 3 million bacteria teeming around in our oral cavity. Ordinarily, they are happy to live on the food we eat. However, they do create their own byproducts that accumulate in our mouth and can cause disease. To understand how this happens, we have to explain this in a little detail.
How Do Oral Bacteria Contribute to Gum Disease?
The amount of bacteria in your mouth may go up or down, but it generally has its own ecosystem and lives harmoniously in the oral cavity. We provide them with food and air, and bacteria happily reproduce and live in the relative safety of the mouth. Bacteria also use the food and air we provide to form a coating called plaque that covers the tooth surfaces. This plaque works as a house or substrate on which the delicate microorganisms can replicate and survive. Technically speaking, this is the reason that we have bad breath and clingy white stuff in our mouths in the morning.
This foul odour is bacterial byproduct and the white stuff is nothing but clumps of bacteria mixed in with fomenting food products and acid. In an ideal situation, a patient with perfect oral hygiene removes all this – plaque, bacteria and white sticky stuff – every day when they brush and floss. However, not all of us have perfect oral hygiene, and bacteria, plaque and white debris are left over in the mouth. This byproduct is irritating to the soft gingival tissue. It gets red and irritated, resulting in a condition called gingivitis. Almost everyone has mild gingivitis, as it’s impossible to keep the mouth completely free of oral bacteria and bacteria byproducts.
Progression to Periodontitis
Patients with poor oral hygiene let plaque accumulate in their mouth due to poor brushing and flossing techniques. Eventually, plaque solidifies to form large deposits called calculus that are even more irritating to gum tissues. These deposits accumulate in an around teeth and actually push the gums away from the teeth, loosening their support. Although there are many steps along the way with many symptoms like foul odour, food impaction, gingival bleeding, etc. the result is that poor oral hygiene can cause teeth to become loose and mobile.
So How Do You Prevent This?
At any given time, 5-20 percent of the general population suffers from severe generalized periodontitis. However, many more patients do have mild to moderate periodontitis and they have not yet realized this. The exact breakdown of affected patients will also vary from country to country. For example, in theAmerican populace, more that 47 percent of people over the age of 30 have mild periodontitis, while adults aged 65 years and older had a higher incidence of 70 percent periodontitis. Risk factors that increase your chances for developing periodontitis include smoking, crooked teeth, hormonal changes in women, immune-deficiencies, genetic predisposition, stress, diabetes and systemic diseases. The good news is that almost all gum disease is preventable. Patients that follow good oral hygiene measures are less likely to develop this condition. Along with oral hygiene, regular dental check-ups are mandatory. In fact, if you are over the age of 30, have one or more family members suffering from periodontitis and have diabetes; you should schedule dental check-ups every month.