Periodontitis – Causes and risk factors with Dr. Kaushik Vanam

Periodontitis – Causes and risk factors with Dr. Kaushik Vanam

Our first Dentistry in Focus article for the new year is about Periodontitis (commonly known as gum disease) and is written by Dr. Kaushik Vanam.

Periodontal diseases range from simple gum inflammation to serious disease that result in major damage to the gums surrounding the teeth and bone that support the teeth. In severe cases, teeth become mobile(loose) and are lost.
Whether your gum disease is stopped, slowed, or gets worse depends a great deal on how well you care for your teeth and gums every day.


Our mouths are full of bacteria. These bacteria, along with saliva and other particles, constantly form a sticky, colourless plaque on teeth. Brushing and flossing regularly helps to get rid of plaque.
Plaque that is not removed can harden and form tartar which cannot be removed by brushing alone.
The longer plaque and tartar are on teeth, the more harmful they become. The bacteria cause inflammation (swelling) of the gums, which is a condition called gingivitis.
In gingivitis, the gums become red, swollen and can bleed easily.

When gingivitis is not treated, it can advance to periodontitis (which means “inflammation around the tooth”).
In periodontitis, gums pull away from the teeth and form spaces (called “pockets) that become infected.
Bacterial toxins and the body’s natural response to infection start to break down the bone and tissues that hold teeth in place.
If not treated, the bones, gums, and tissue that support the teeth are all destroyed.
The teeth may eventually become loss and have to be removed.

Risk Factors:

  1. Smoking: Smoking is a single major preventable risk factor for periodontal disease and tooth loss.
    Smoking leads to several dental problems, including:-

    • Bad breath.
    • Tooth discoloration.
    • Increased build up of plaque and tartar on the teeth.
    • Increased loss of bone within the jaw.
    • Increased risk of developing gum disease, a leading cause of tooth loss.
    • Delayed healing process following tooth removal, periodontal treatment or surgery.
    • Lower success rate of dental implant procedures.
    • Increased risk of developing oral cancer.
    • Periodontal disease is increased both in prevalence and severity in smokers.
    • Smoking cessation may halt the disease progression and improve the outcome of periodontal treatment.
  2. Diabetes: People with diabetes are at higher risk for developing infections, including gum disease.
  3. Other illnesses: Diseases like some cancers or AIDS and their respective treatments can also negatively affect the health of gums.
  4. Medications: There are hundreds of prescription and over the counter medications that can reduce the flow of saliva, which has a protective effect on the mouth.
    Without enough saliva, the mouth is vulnerable to infections such as gum disease. And some medicines can cause abnormal overgrowth of the gum tissue; this can make it difficult to keep teeth and gums clean.
  5. Genetic susceptibility: Some people are more prone to severe gum disease than others.
  6. Age: Older adults are more vulnerable for periodontal diseases than children and teenagers.
  7. Hormonal changes: Such as with pregnancy.

Signs of infection:

See a dentist if you notice any of the following symptoms:-

  • Bad breath that won’t go away,
  • Red or swollen gums,
  • Tender or bleeding gums,
  • Painful chewing,
  • Loose teeth,
  • Sensitive teeth,
  • Receding gums or longer appearing teeth.


The main goal of treatment is to control the infection. The number and types of treatment will vary, depending on the extent of the gum disease.
Any type of treatment requires that the patient keep up good daily care at home.
The dentist or dental therapist/hygienist removes the plaque through a deep-cleaning method called scaling and root planning.
Scaling means scraping off the tartar from above and below the gum line.
Root planning gets rid of rough spots on the tooth root where the germs gather, and helps remove bacteria that contribute to the disease.
In some cases a dental laser may be used to remove excess gum tissue, plaque and tartar.
Your dentist may also prescribe any medications or specific mouth rinses to reduce the extent and severity of gum diseases.


There are a few easy preventive measures that you can follow regularly in order to prevent the occurrence and progress of periodontal diseases:

  1. Brush your teeth twice a day (with a fluoride toothpaste).
  2. Floss regularly to remove plaque from between teeth. Or use a special brush or plastic pick recommended by a dental professional.
  3. Visit the dentist for a routine check-up and professional cleaning at least once in every 6 months.
  4. Quit smoking.

About the Author

Dr. Kaushik Vanam has been with Robertson Dental Innovations since August 2012. Dr. Vanam heads up our Saturday team and is available Tuesdays to Saturdays for appointments. Dr. Vanam is really enjoying the Australia lifestyle and culture.

Posted in Dentistry In Focus Articles, Dr Vanam