Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria in dental plaque. The disease causes gums to become inflamed and bleed, even in early stages. Nearly 50 percent of Americans over the age of 30 have some form of periodontal disease. Crooked teeth can contribute to the development of periodontal disease, so receiving orthodontic treatment may help to lower a patient’s risk of developing periodontal disease.
When gingivitis is not treated early enough and it advances to periodontal disease, or periodontitis, the gums pull away from the teeth and form pockets which become infected. The body’s immune system attempts to fight off the bacteria, which lowers the body’s general immune resistance. As the body fights the infection in the gums, the tissue and bone is naturally broken down, which may eventually result in the teeth becoming loose and falling out or having to be removed.
Periodontal disease has also been linked to increased risk of:
Misaligned or crowded teeth can make it much harder for patients to properly clean the teeth. Food is more likely to stay trapped in hard to reach places, contributing to the build-up of plaque and tartar that causes periodontal disease. Receiving orthodontic treatment to correct misalignments and overcrowding can help prevent the development of periodontal disease. Avoiding smoking, excessive drinking, and an unbalanced diet will also help patients to avoid periodontal disease.
Unfortunately, some risk factors for periodontal disease are unavoidable. Patients may be genetically predisposed to periodontal disease, or may become more prone to the disease because of hormonal changes occurring during puberty or menopause. Diabetes may increase the risk of periodontal disease, especially if blood sugar is not controlled well. Certain medications that inhibit the body’s ability to produce saliva may also increase the risk of developing periodontal disease. When patients are at increased risk of developing periodontal disease due to the presence of these risk factors, patients can help to lower the risk by focusing on tooth care and taking preventative measures.
Braces may correct misalignments and straighten crooked teeth, which can help to reduce the risk of periodontal disease. However, patients should have braces installed prior to the age of 30 and before there are any signs of periodontal disease for this measure to be most effective. If patients have already developed gum disease, gingivitis, or periodontal disease, orthodontists may be hesitant to recommend braces. Braces make it more difficult for patients to clean the gums thoroughly, so the disease may worsen after braces have been placed. It is much easier to prevent periodontal disease than it is to treat the disease after it has developed, so patients should focus on oral and orthodontic care early for best results.