Periodontitis (also commonly known as pyorrhea) is a type of periodontal disease, that is, a disease affecting the periodontium, the ensemble of tissues fixing the teeth to the bone. Periodontal diseases involve an inflammatory condition and have an infectious origin. When the condition is superficial, it triggers gum swelling or gingivitis, which is reversible. However, it must be treated or it can become a periodontitis. When bacteria attack the deepest periodontal tissues, a destruction of the ligament and alveolar bone holding the teeth occurs. We speak then of periodontitis or pyorrhea. This loss of periodontal supporting tissue (periodontal ligament and bone) is irreversible, hence the importance of an early treatment.
Often they go unnoticed because in most cases they are painless. The symptoms and warning signs are:
-Receding gums: teeth seem longer due to the gum displacement. This condition can give rise to an increase of dental sensitivity, especially to cold.
-Teeth mobility: when the bone loss is profound, the teeth are not able to resist the pressure exerted upon them by the tongue or just the contact with their opposites during the mouth’s closing. Besides, the inflammation of the periodontal ligament might cause changes in their inclination and position.
-Teeth separation: gaps or diastema appear between teeth.
-Bad breath (halitosis).
-Abscesses or gumboils in the gum.
When these symptoms occur the periodontitis is in an advanced stage, and even if it can be stopped through good periodontal treatment and maintenance, the lost bone and periodontum are not regained. That is why an early detection is vital. In order to prevent them, a proper oral hygiene and periodic cleaning conducted by a dentist or a periodontist (gum specialist) are needed. It is extremely important to consult with an specialist to find out whether there is prior family history, as predisposition is linked to genetic factors.
Other risk factors are: tobacco, stress, hormonal disruptions (menopause, pregnancy) and immunosuppression conditions. The rate is low for young people and teenagers, but it increases with age (10% between the ages of 30 and 40, 25% between 50 and 60).
Related systemic diseases: it might pose an increased risk to patients suffering from diabetes and heart diseases. There is a clear association between periodontitis or pyorrhea and a risk of myocardial infarction, as well as a risk for pregnant women of premature birth and low birth weight.