Surveys show that as many as 40 % of all adult Swedes have some degree of periodontal disease and a little over 10 % of these have severe periodontitis. It is also estimated that one in ten Swedes will have lost all their teeth by the age of 65.
Periodontitis is an inflammatory disease that affects the tissue holding the tooth in place. The disease progresses slowly. It may be many years before the tooth is lost, so many years that the person suffering from it hardly notices the disease until his or her teeth start to become loose. This means that many people are late in coming forward for treatment.
It starts with inflammation
The initial stage of periodontitis is always inflammation in the gums, so-called gingivitis. It is caused by deposits of bacteria on the teeth along the gum line. Initially these deposits are soft (plaque). Saliva contributes to calcification of this plaque, and the tartar that forms is pulled down into the gum pocket. The inflammation increases. With improved oral hygiene, the gum inflammation usually heals within a week or two. But the inflammation will soon return if oral hygiene deteriorates.
Risks of long-term inflammation
If, however, the inflammation is not treated, the gum will become more swollen and the bone surrounding the tooth will begin to break down. The gum pocket gradually deepens, with tartar and bacteria migrating towards the root tip. It is now impossible to keep these deep pockets clean. Chronic inflammation in the oral cavity also constitutes a health risk. Bacteria can spread to other parts of the body, for example, joints and heart valves, via the circulatory system.
How can you avoid periodontitis?
Good oral hygiene is essential. Thorough cleaning with a toothbrush and dental floss or similar, as well as removal of tartar, will allow healing of the inflammation at an early stage. As well as being scrupulous yourself about cleaning your teeth, once a year you should also see a dental hygienist, who can scrape away any deposits and provide any necessary oral hygiene advice.