Gum disease is an umbrella term that refers to different types of diseases which ultimately lead to gum inflammation or gingivitis, destruction of the periodontal ligament, loss of supporting bone mass, and (if left untreated) tooth loss.
Almost anyone with poor oral hygiene can succumb to gingivitis. However, only 10 percent to 15 percent of people will go on to suffer from advanced periodontal disease and tooth loss. Of this number, 70 percent develop chronic gum disease while the rest tend to develop different forms of the disease.
When Does Gum Disease Begin?
But when does gum disease begin? A landmark study carried out by Danish Professor Harold Loe provides a deep insight on the beginning of gum disease.
In 1965, Loe conducted a series of clinical studies involving dental students who had healthy teeth and gums. The dental students who participated in the studies were asked to stop performing all good oral hygiene habits, including brushing and flossing, for three weeks.
During this three-week period, the dental students all developed gingivitis. During Loe’s analysis, he discovered that the dental plaque of the participants changed and became more complex. After ending the studies, the students’ gum health returned to normal as they went back to their good oral hygiene habits.
What this series of studies indicates is that oral hygiene, or the lack thereof, has a direct correlation to gum health.
What Causes Gum Disease
In order to better understand this concept, it is worthwhile to think of your mouth as an ecosystem inhabited both by good and bad bacteria. And like any ecosystem, a fine balance should be maintained. Under good circumstances, the bacteria pose little harm to your oral health, and some can even be beneficial. But if the balance in the ecosystem is disturbed, oral health problems, including gum disease, may arise.
According to experts, there are 600 types of bacteria that can be found in the mouth. Of this number, about 400 have been identified. Apart from that, the bacteria that cause gum disease may account for a small segment of this number but they can wreak serious havoc on your oral health.
The bacteria that cause diseases often grow in number when these are not disturbed through brushing and flossing. In turn, this leads to gum disease as the bad bacteria move into the periodontal pockets which surround the teeth. When these bacteria move into the periodontal pockets, they can be difficult to remove.