What Is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease, more commonly known as gum disease, affects nearly 50 percent of the adult population worldwide. There are two forms of periodontal disease: the milder form, gingivitis, and the advanced form, periodontitis.

Gingivitis vs Periodontitis

Gingivitis is a milder form of gum disease that causes the gums to become red, swollen, or bleed easily. It’s notable that patients experiencing gingivitis have little to no discomfort.

The cause of gingivitis is often simple to identify, as it’s a result of inadequate oral hygiene. There are multiple factors that can contribute to the frequency and severity of gingivitis, including diabetes, smoking, aging, genetic predisposition, systemic illnesses, stress, inadequate nutrition, puberty, hormonal fluctuations, pregnancy, substance abuse, HIV infection, and medications.

The good news is that with proper oral care at home, combined with professional treatment at your local dental clinic, patients can reverse the advance of gingivitis and return their gums to good health.

But if you don’t take the necessary steps to reverse gingivitis, periodontal disease advances to the more severe form, periodontitis. Over time, periodontitis takes several steps, deteriorating the gums.

First, plaque spreads and grows below the gum line, producing toxins along the way that irritate the gums, causing a chronic, inflammatory response. The body turns on itself, in a manner of speaking, and destroys the tissues and bone that provide needed support to your teeth.

As your gums separate from your teeth, forming pockets of space in between, your teeth can eventually become loose and require removal. Even with all of these insidious steps breaking down the gums and eventually sacrificing their teeth, patients often feel very little pain or discomfort as the process runs its course.

Types of Periodontitis

Advanced periodontal disease, also known as periodontitis, can take on many many forms, all of them serious and demanding clinical attention.
While many types of periodontitis are related to other conditions, aggressive periodontitis tends to occur in people who are otherwise healthy. With aggressive periodontitis, patients typically suffer rapid attachment loss, along with bone destruction and familial aggregation.

Contrarily, chronic periodontitis is slower to cause actual attachment loss, with a more progressive deterioration of tissue and forming of pockets between teeth and gums.

Other common forms of periodontitis occur in as a result of systemic diseases or along with systemic conditions. Periodontitis as a manifestation of systemic diseases can occur at a young age, unlike chronic and aggressive periodontitis, which almost always manifest in the adult population. Systemic conditions that can cause periodontitis include heart and respiratory diseases, as well as diabetes.

Nectotizing periodontal disease is the result of an infection in the gums, diagnosed with necrosis of gingivial tissues, periodontal ligament, and alveolar bone. We see necrotizing periodontal disease associated with systemic conditions like HIV infection, immunosuppression, and even from malnutrition.

The Global Periodontal Health Project

The FDI World Dental Federation, which represents more than 1 million dentists worldwide, has published a pair of resources--a white paper and practical guide--to promote its Global Periodontal Health Project (GPHP) in order to bring attention to periodontal health. The White Paper on Prevention and Management of Periodontal Diseases for Oral Health and General Health provides oral health professionals with a comprehensive - yet concise - summary of the main issues related to the global prevalence and impacts of periodontal disease. It also covers the aetiology and pathogenesis, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the disease, as well as identifies the key challenges in tackling the burden of periodontal disease.
The practical guide, Periodontal Health and Disease - A practical guide to reduce the global burden of periodontal disease, is based on considerations from the white paper and the 2017 FDI World Oral Health Forum, which focused on global periodontal health. It introduces periodontal health and sets the context for the global burden of periodontal disease. It provides practical guidance for National Dental Associations to design, conduct and evaluate advocacy campaigns that will advance the implementation of policies to prevent and manage periodontal disease.

The organization is a strong advocate for oral health and professional treatment in the battle to prevent and reverse the effects of periodontal disease, as both gingivitis and periodontitis. FDI President Kathryn Kell says,”(Periodontal disease) should not be taken lightly, especially since we know it has a significant relationship with other health conditions.”

The global dental community is coming together to face the challenge of greatly reducing the nearly 50 percent rate of incidence of periodontal disease among adults around the world. The initiatives of the FDI World Dental Foundations, respective national dental associations and research groups, as well as dental professionals at local level will ensure that everyone puts patient needs first, offering education, supplies, preventive care, and treatment.