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Periodontal disease contributes to cavities and tooth decay, and eventually the loss of teeth and bone. Though the earlier stages of this disease, are easily reversible if caught in time and treated appropriately, the later stages are treatable but not always curable because it can cause significant damage to teeth and surrounding tissues that the body can’t necessarily heal.
What is Periodontal Disease?
Gingivitis is the earlier stage of periodontal disease. Symptoms of gingivitis include tender, swollen, or bleeding gums and bad breath. A dentist should be able to tell if you have gingivitis during a regular checkup. Gingivitis is caused by bacteria within the plaque that builds up on your teeth starting to eat through the enamel and irritate your gums, which can cause them to start receding. Gingivitis can be treated with deep teeth cleaning, also called scaling, and upping your oral hygiene routine, as well as keeping regular dental appointments.
Once your gums start receding, the problem starts to snowball into periodontitis. Plaque has more places to attach and it’s harder to remove it with brushing and flossing alone. Roots become exposed, which lack the enamel to protect them from the bacteria, contributing to cavities. Bacteria starts to invade deeper into the gum line, and gums start to pull away from the roots of the teeth, giving bacteria more ways into the roots, where it will start to destroy bone and the tissues holding teeth in place. While periodontitis is treatable, the body doesn’t always recover from bone loss, and can’t regrow teeth. The methods used to treat periodontitis are also more invasive and can include root planning to smooth roots so it’s harder for plaque to attach, filling of cavities, root canals, tooth removal, and oral surgery.
Where Does Secondand Smoke Come In?
Multiple studies done with children are showing a link between how quickly and severely periodontal disease progresses and secondhand smoke. While it’s important to brush, floss, and use mouthwash properly, it won’t always help you avoid every problem. Regular dental checkups can only prevent so much. Regular exposure to secondhand smoke, even with proper oral hygiene and regular checkups, can increase your child’s risk of gum disease, and contribute to other dental problems such as bleeding gums, dental abscesses, cavities, and even tooth loss.
Smokers have a higher rate of oral bone loss because the habit can reduce bone mineral density. Secondhand smoke has proven to have the same negative impact on others. There is demonstrable relationship between secondhand smoke and bone loss in rats, and the studies are consistent with results they’re now seeing in children. Experts suggest that exposure to secondhand smoke at the age of four mouths doubles the risk of children developing tooth decay in the future.
Secondhand smoke may also cause inflammation of the oral membrane and can damage the salivary gland function leading to dry mouth and increased acidity in the saliva, which affects the formation of dental plaque and caries (divots in the enamel that will collect plaque and form cavities). Since secondhand smoke can also affect the immune system, and periodontal disease is caused by bacteria, the results of the studies being done on children are more revealing than shocking.
These studies are currently being evaluated to determine causality, but it is important to limit your child’s risk to secondhand smoke for not just their physical health, but it now seems for their dental health as well.