Periodontitis, also known as gum disease and pyorrhea, is a set of inflammatory diseases affecting the tissues surrounding the teeth. Periodontitis involves progressive loss of the alveolar bone around the teeth, and if left untreated, can lead to the loosening and subsequent loss of teeth. Periodontitis is caused by microorganisms that adhere to and grow on the tooth's surfaces, along with an over-aggressive immune response against these microorganisms. A diagnosis of periodontitis is established by inspecting the soft gum tissues around the teeth with a probe (i.e., a clinical examination) and by evaluating the patient's X-ray films (i.e., a radiographic examination), to determine the amount of bone loss around the teeth. Specialists in the treatment of periodontitis are periodontists; their field is known as "periodontology" or "periodontics".
ClassificationThe 1999 classification system for periodontal diseases and conditions listed seven major categories of periodontal diseases, of which 2–6 are termed destructive periodontal disease, because the damage is essentially irreversible. The seven categories are as follows:
- Chronic periodontitis
- Aggressive periodontitis
- Periodontitis as a manifestation of systemic disease
- Necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis/periodontitis
- Abscesses of the periodontium
- Combined periodontic-endodontic lesions
ExtentThe "extent" of disease refers to the proportion of the dentition affected by the disease in terms of percentage of sites. Sites are defined as the positions at which probing measurements are taken around each tooth and, generally, six probing sites around each tooth are recorded, as follows:
SeverityThe "severity" of disease refers to the amount of periodontal ligament fibers that have been lost, termed "clinical attachment loss". According to the American Academy of Periodontology, the classification of severity is as follows:
- Mild: of attachment loss
- Moderate: of attachment loss
- Severe: ≥ of attachment loss
Signs and symptomsIn the early stages, periodontitis has very few symptoms, and in many individuals the disease has progressed significantly before they seek treatment. Symptoms may include:
- Redness or bleeding of gums while brushing teeth, using dental floss or biting into hard food (e.g., apples) (though this may occur even in gingivitis, where there is no attachment loss)
- Gum swelling that recurs
- Spitting out blood after brushing teeth
- Halitosis, or bad breath, and a persistent metallic taste in the mouth
- Gingival recession, resulting in apparent lengthening of teeth. (This may also be caused by heavy-handed brushing or with a stiff toothbrush.)
- Deep pockets between the teeth and the gums ( pockets are sites where the attachment has been gradually destroyed by collagen-destroying enzymes, known as collagenases)
- Loose teeth, in the later stages (though this may occur for other reasons, as well)
Associated conditionsPeriodontitis has been linked to increased inflammation in the body, such as indicated by raised levels of C-reactive protein and interleukin-6. It is linked through this to increased risk of stroke, myocardial infarction, and atherosclerosis. It also linked in those over 60 years of age to impairments in delayed memory and calculation abilities. Individuals with impaired fasting glucose and diabetes mellitus have higher degrees of periodontal inflammation, and often have difficulties with balancing their blood glucose level owing to the constant systemic inflammatory state, caused by the periodontal inflammation. Although no causal association was proven, a recent study showed correlation between chronic periodontitis and erectile dysfunction.
CausesPeriodontitis is an inflammation of the periodontium, i.e., the tissues that support the teeth. The periodontium consists of four tissues:
- gingiva, or gum tissue,
- cementum, or outer layer of the roots of teeth,
- alveolar bone, or the bony sockets into which the teeth are anchored, and
- periodontal ligaments (PDLs), which are the connective tissue fibers that run between the cementum and the alveolar bone.
MechanismAs dental plaque or biofilm accumulates on the teeth near and below the gums, there is a shift in the composition of the biofilm from essentially streptococcus to an actinomyces dominant plaque. Motile bacteria is also seen more frequently.Listgarten MA, Hellden L. "Relative distribution of bacteria at clinically healthy and periodontally diseased sites in human" J Clin Periodontol 1978; 5:115–32.> As this happens, inflammation sets in the gingiva. Initially, this takes the form of gingivitis, which represents inflammation confined to the soft tissues above the bone level. Inflammation in the gingiva can remain at the gingivitis level for a long period and will not progress to periodontitis, unless in the presence of local conditions or generalized host susceptibility.Offenbacher, S. (1996). "Periodontal diseases: pathogenesis". Ann. Periodontol. 1, 821–78. When this shift occurs, the immune system's response to plaque accumulation shifts from a predominantly neutrophilic mediated response to lymphocytic and plasma cell-mediated response.Page R, Schroeder HE. "Pathogenesis of inflammatory periodontal disease. A summary of current work" Lab Invest 1976; 33:235–49.> Clinically, the gingiva presents swelling, redness and a tendency to bleed. This modifies the environment, leading to changes in the composition of the biofilm itself. As this happens, a predominantly gram-negative environment is established, with periodontal pathogens emerging. These include A. actinomycetemcomitans, the red complex bacteria (P. gingivalis, T. Forsythia, T denticola) and to a lesser extent the orange complex bacteria (F nucleatum, P micros, P.intermedia, P. nigrecens, E. nodatum and S. constellates).Socransky SS, Haffajee AD, Cugini MA, Smith C, Kent RL Jr. "Microbial complexes in subgingival plaque" J Clin Periodontol 1998; 25:134–44. Strongest bacterial association to chronic periodontitis is with P. Gingivalis. Numerous virulence factors have been identified for this pathogen. This allows P. gingivalis to elude defense mechanism and perpetuate inflammation inside the periodontium. Prolonged inflammation in the periodontium leads to an apical shift in the attachment of the gingiva to the tooth with deepening pockets and bone loss around the teeth. Untreated periodontitis progresses unevenly over time but results in loss of function, tissue destruction, and tooth loss.
PreventionDaily oral hygiene measures to prevent periodontal disease include:
- Brushing properly on a regular basis (at least twice daily), with the patient attempting to direct the toothbrush bristles underneath the gumline, helps disrupt the bacterial-mycotic growth and formation of subgingival plaque.
- Flossing daily and using interdental brushes (if the space between teeth is large enough), as well as cleaning behind the last tooth, the third molar, in each quarter
- Using an antiseptic mouthwash: Chlorhexidine gluconate-based mouthwash in combination with careful oral hygiene may cure gingivitis, although they cannot reverse any attachment loss due to periodontitis.
- Using periodontal trays to maintain dentist-prescribed medications at the source of the disease: The use of trays allows the medication to stay in place long enough to penetrate the biofilms where the microorganism are found.
- Regular dental check-ups and professional teeth cleaning as required: Dental check-ups serve to monitor the person's oral hygiene methods and levels of attachment around teeth, identify any early signs of periodontitis, and monitor response to treatment.
- Microscopic evaluation of biofilm may serve as a guide to regaining commensal health flora.Bonner M. To Kiss or Not to Kiss. A cure for gum disease. Amyris Editions, 2013 EAN : 978-28755-2016-6