About plaque and tooth decay
Plaque is a sticky film that forms over the surface of the tooth and contains bacteria, which thrive on the sugar content of the diet. The bacteria in this biofilm are not normally harmful, but if they are not regulated by regular teeth cleaning, the plaque builds up and the bacteria grow and produce acid, which is harmful to the teeth causing erosion of the enamel surface of the teeth. The plaque also thickens and hardens into a substance called tartar or calculus, which can then only be removed by a dentist.
Accumulation of plaque can lead to dental caries or cavity and inflammation of the gums or gingiva, which leads to gingivitis. Eventually the condition of the teeth can deteriorate into periodontitis.
What is periodontitis?
Poor oral hygiene can cause periodontal disease or periodontitis, which is irreversible change to the supporting structures of the teeth. This can lead to destruction of the teeth due to inflammation of the tissues that support the teeth, loss of alveolar bone, loosening and loss of teeth and periodontal pocketing.
A periodontal pocket contains plaque, bacteria and calculus that have got into the space between the tooth and the gum. As the bacteria spread below the gum line, the bone and connective tissue are eroded by toxins produced by the bacteria, and inflammatory chemicals produced during the body’s immune response to the infection. This can cause irreversible damage to the structure of the tooth.
Periodontitis has also been associated with increased risk of more serious chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and stroke and has even been linked to premature births in mothers with periodontal disease. Also control of blood sugar in people with diabetes is compromised by periodontal disease.
Symptoms of periodontal disease include:
- Swollen, red, sore bleeding gums (gingivitis), which is usually the first sign of periodontal disease
- Receding gums and the formation of periodontal pockets
- Spaces appearing between the teeth, which may change the feel of the bite
Bad breath, a sign of bacterial infection
An abscess can form in a tooth that develops an acute bacterial infection. Bacteria in the gum or gingiva can invade the pulp that forms the inner layer of the tooth, causing acute inflammation resulting in a pus-filled pocket. This abscess forms as a result of the body’s immune response to the bacterial infection.
Oral and perioral infections
Bacterial, fungal and viral infection of the mouth and area around the mouth (perioral) are a common problem and can be treated by antibiotics, antifungal and antiviral medications.