"Peri" means around, and "dontal" refers to teeth. Periodontal diseases are infections of the structures which surround the teeth. The earliest stage of periodontal disease, gingivitis, affects only the gums. In more severe forms of the disease, all of the supporting tissues are involved.
Bacteria in dental plaque are the major cause of periodontal disease. Plaque is that sticky substance which forms on teeth. In an effort to get rid of the bacteria, the cells of your immune system release substances that inflame and damage the gums and surrounding tissue. This leads to swollen and bleeding gums, signs of gingivitis (the earliest stage of gum disease). If this situation is allowed to continue, it may manifest itself in the form of more severe damage. At this point, the disease process has reached the stage of being classified as the more serious Periodontitis.
There are several other factors that can contribute to periodontal disease. Other diseases, medications, oral habits, gentics, smoking and tobacco use, misaligned or crowded teeth, braces or bridgework, grinding or clenching of teeth, stress, fluctuating hormones, and poor nutrition are all known to contribute to, or make worse the status of gum health.
It should be noted that gum disease is directly linked to other health problems and can affect your entire immune system. Scientific research has discovered a link between gum disease and stroke, heart disease, diabetes and even an increased risk for pregnant women.
Good oral hygiene at home, and maintaining regular visits with a dental professional, are imperative in the prevention of periodontal disease.
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