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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Periodontal disease:



Don't let the weird name tick you off. "Periodontal" is Latin for "around the tooth" and this essay will examine the disorders in this region.

Periodontal disorders can be divided into two groups or stages: the first is gingivitis and the second is periodontis.  

Plaque – a thin layer of bacteria which forms on our teeth – starts this disorder. If oral hygiene is not adequately considered, these bacteria will continue to grow and at the gum level, it will cause the gums to swell and become red. This is the mild or silent stage which is called gingivitis and is usually painless.

But if the bacteria keep on growing, and brushing and flossing doesn't come in to stop it, the bacteria will start eating into the gum. This will cause a space between the tooth and the gum which is called a periodontal pocket. Bacteria will fill this tiny hole and start to expand it. Gradually they will eat into the periodontal ligaments and the alveolar bone. The overall result will be the loss of the tooth attachment to the bone and finally the loss of the tooth. This second stage is called periodontis, which unlike gingivitis is very painful. Apart from the swelling and redness of the gums, the gums will bleed with a slight brush   

 Causes:

The main cause of periodontal disorders is plaque, but the few listed bellow also play a role:

 1) Smoking:

Smoking is a terribly bad habit and here's another point to add to the list of the reasons. A study showing two groups of people over the age of 65 – one group of smokers and the other of non-smokers – concluded that of the non-smokers, 20% were toothless but a whopping 42% of the smokers were bold in the mouth.
The main reason is calculus – the plaque which hardens on the tooth. Smokers usually need a dentist's assistance every few months in removing the calculus. But if it's not removed, the same story as mentioned above will occur. Apart from the calculus, the existence of poisonous and dangerous material (such as formaldehyde and cadmium which are also causes of cancer), increase the speed of the process slightly.
Also, if a smoker decides to treat the disease, the time it will take for the tissue to heal is longer than in a non-smoker.

 2) Maturity and Pregnancy in women:

In the maturity stage of a female's life, because of high secretion of sexual hormones (estrogen and progesterone), the blood circulation is at a higher rate. This means that body tissues - including the gum – will be receiving more blood and therefore being more sensitive. So it is recommended by dental hygienists to take oral hygiene seriously in this stage as a smaller amount of bacteria could start the process of periodontal diseases. Also, the infection could enter the blood and circulate, spreading the bacteria to other parts of the body.

Researches show that during the third and eighth month of pregnancy, the female's gum could become red and swollen. And a severe reaction by the immune system could cause lumps on the gum line called tumors. But these aren't causes of cancer, are painless and will disappear by themselves; but in cases which the tumor doesn't stop growing, they are removed by dentists. Observations show that pregnant women with periodontal disease are seven times more likely than those with a healthy periodontum (gum, periodontal ligaments and alveolar bone) to deliver pre-term and to low weight babies.

 3) Diet:

This is also an important factor. For example vitamin C, apart from having antioxidant characteristics has the role of maintaining the form of tissues.

Other factors such as stress, genetics, other bodily disorders (heart disease, diabetes, pancreatic cancer,…) and a few more are also in some way connected to periodontal disease.

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