What is periodontology?
Periodontology is the study of the hard and soft tissues around the teeth, including your gums. These tissues are collectively named the periodontium, and the periodontium plays a vital role in the upkeep of your dental health:
- It acts as a shock absorber when you're biting and chewing your food, preventing damage
- It ensures that your teeth are securely attached to your jaw
- It holds your teeth in a stable position allowing them to work together comfortably.
There are several components to your periodontium. You'll find the tooth socket; a bony pouch in which the tooth is positioned. This is connected to the jaw by the supporting root of the tooth, which is not usually visible in a healthy mouth. This reaches down into the tooth socket and is covered with a layer of cementum. A complex arrangement of miniscule fibres wrap around the root cementum and the tooth socket, holding the tooth in place. This is known as the periodontal ligament.
Your periodontium is made from living tissues. This means that it can adapt to changes in the mouth over time, adjusting its shape and thickness around your teeth.
Why is periodontology important?
One of the main reasons we must pay attention to our gums is because of gum disease, also known as periodontitis. This can develop slowly over time and you may not notice the effects until it has advanced dramatically.
Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss. A specialist can spot the signs of periodontitis early and advise you on how to treat gum disease before it's too late.
What are the symptoms of gum disease?
Gum disease is brought on by an excess of plaque. Your mouth is inhabited by billions of bacteria that will live quite happily, cohabiting with you. But if your mouth is not brushed thoroughly on a regular basis, it can be the perfect breeding ground for unwanted bacteria.
This can lead to inflammation of the gums, making it painful to brush, eat and drink. Over time, your gums may begin to recede, revealing the root of your tooth and making your teeth more sensitive.
One of the clearest signs of early on-set periodontitis is bleeding when you brush. Unfortunately, smokers may not notice this as nicotine can slow the blood flow, making it less obvious.
Are smokers more likely to suffer from gum disease?
Unfortunately, yes. Periodontitis progresses much faster in smokers than in non-smokers, leading to more rapid tooth loss. Periodontal treatments are also less successful in smokers due to them taking longer to heal.
How is gum disease treated?
The key to the treatment of gum disease is to completely halt the progression of unwanted bacteria in the mouth. After an assessment, depending on how advanced your periodontitis is, your dentist may initiate the following treatments:
- Oral hygiene instruction and advice
- Professional tooth cleaning
- Antibiotic therapy
- Surgical treatment
- Aftercare - regular follow up appointments.
How can periodontology improve my overall health?
Periodontology isn't just about preventing gum disease. Your mouth is also very reflective of your overall health. It can present symptoms of systemic diseases that may otherwise go unnoticed.
A trained periodontist can spot symptoms of serious diseases such as diabetes, cancer or blood disorders, helping you to catch them early on.