Today, we are going to talk about Periodontitis. Most people are unfamiliar with that term. And it's not surprising since its rather technical in nature. Thus, we will back up a little but and discuss some simpler terms that will help us better understand the more difficult condition of periodontitis.
When you floss you have noticed that the floss will disappear underneath the gums slightly as you near the base of the teeth. That is a very good thing. There is supposed to be a 1-3 mm pocket that surround each and every tooth in your mouth. At that depth, the pocket is very cleanable with your toothbrush, mouth wash, and floss. Maintaining this pocket at this healthy depth will ensure that your gums will stay healthy. Trouble is that many people do not brush, rinse, or floss as often as they should. Thus food gets packed into this pocket, does not get removed in a timely manner, and begins to be a breading ground for bacteria.
Once the bacteria begin to reproduce, the gums start to show the effects. Swelling, redness and bleeding are all common signs of gingivitis. Most people have gingivitis to one extent or another. And as long as the bacteria gets cleaned from the pockets within a few weeks nothing much should happen. It is when weeks, months, and even in some cases, years go by without a person seeing the dentist that the real problems begin to manifest themselves.
As the bacteria builds and the gingivitis gets severe enough the jaw bone, that resides just under the gum tissue, begins to also have difficulties. The bone will start to feel the effects of the bacteria overload and begin to dissolve from around the tooth. This unhealthy, and deteriorating bone condition is what is known as Periodontitis. This condition becomes ever more dangerous as the bone moves further away from the chewing surface of the tooth and closer to the end of the root. As the tooth loses bone support, it begins to be more mobile. Thus every time you chew, the tooth begins to move ever so slightly in the bone.
If the periodontal condition is not corrected the bone continues to erode and the tooth gets looser and looser. Eventually, it becomes so loose that it must be extracted from the mouth. Teeth with absolutely no cavities, crowns, root canals, etc. can be deemed unsalvageable and will be lost. That is the saddest moment of a patient with severe periodontitis.
A patient who has done their very best to brush as often as they could but has been unable, or unwilling, to add flossing and regular dental visits to their brushing regime. Moral of the story is that brushing is only one variable in a far more complex equation of overall oral health care. Taking care of the teeth is one thing. But taking care of the gums and bone structure is another entirely. Please floss appropriately and see your dentist on a regular basis.
Below photos are before and after of a person who had not been to the dentist in 5 years. The crap behind their teeth is calculus build up that helped this patient attain sever periodontitis. The other picture is an after picture of when the teeth were cleaned off.
Dr. Jim Ellis, DDS
1220 33rd Street Suite C
Ogden, UT 84403